Hospital Initiatives Monitor Patients, Doctors Amid Opioid Crisis

Posted at 10:28 PM, Aug 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-22 10:07:28-04

The big undertaking to tackle the opioid crisis has been a collaborative effort for many officials and hospitals throughout Tennessee.

As the chief of emergency medicine at Saint Thomas Midtown, Dr. Ali Bollinger has been focusing on the opioid crisis for at least the last two years.

Governor Bill Haslam's multi-million dollar opioid initiative, TN Together, has only solidified the ongoing work by Saint Thomas Health.

Bollinger said they have already been cutting back on the amount of prescriptions throughout their emergency departments by offering drug combinations that do not require opiates.

They try to avoid opiates for chronic painful condition or for those who simply had their medication lost or stolen.

"There's been recent data that shows that if you take ibuprofen and combine it with Tylenol it's as effective as Lortab for pain," said Bollinger. "It's really important to engage our patients and to have conversations with them in the reasons why we're selecting a non-opioid alternative."

In addition, the hospitals have been using a national database to help determine if a patient is abusing the emergency department.

The system allows physicians to look up how many opiates a patient has been prescribed and by how many different providers.

"I can even look to see if a patient has been going to Kentucky for opiates and I can use that information to help me decide whether or not that patient is appropriate for more opiate therapy," added Bollinger.

It not only focuses on patients, but also help keep doctors accountable.

"Often times if you can just talk to them and say it appears they're prescribing opiates more frequently than their peers, they can self modify most of the time," said Bollinger.

A new state report showed 1,776 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses last year. The number is the highest in at least the last six years.

There were 1,268 overdose deaths with 644 associated with prescription opioids for pain, which include hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine.