Each year, up to 100 million people in the US experience acute or chronic pain, mainly because of short-term illnesses, injury and medical procedures. It is therefore important that patients are offered effective treatment options to reduce symptoms and improve function. Nonopioid management is the preferred option, but there are circumstances for which short-term opioid therapy is appropriate and beneficial. Finding the balance between these approaches is an ongoing problem in the management of acute noncancer pain.
This cluster randomised clinical trial featured in JAMA Health Forum, aimed to assess whether clinician-targeted interventions prevent unsafe opioid prescribing in ambulatory patients with acute noncancer pain. The authors found that the use of comparison emails decreased the proportion of patients with acute pain who had never taken opioids receiving an opioid prescription. The emails also reduced the number of patients who progressed to treatment with long-term opioid therapy or were exposed to concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine therapy. They concluded that healthcare systems could add clinician-targeted nudges to other initiatives as an efficient, scalable approach to further decrease potentially unsafe opioid prescribing.