Intermountain tweaks Cerner EHR in bid to reduce opioid prescriptions

The health system is adding new prompts and default order sets into its electronic health record to help clinicians think more critically about how they help patients manage pain.
By Mike Miliard
12:40 PM
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intermountain EHR to help reduce opioid prescriptions

As the opioid national emergency continues, Intermountain Healthcare is promising to reduce the number of hydrocodone, oxycodone and other opioids dispensed by its 22 hospitals and 180 clinics by 40 percent by the end of 2018.

Currently, the Salt Lake City-based health system prescribes more than 5 million opioid tablets each year. As it works to get that number down to 3 million or fewer, it's rolling out an array of news policies to help its clinicians think harder about what they're giving their patients, and how many – if any – opioid pills they really need.

Intermountain has trained 2,500 of its caregivers about potential alternatives to opioids, and plans to expand its education programs across the health system.

[Also: National e-prescribing bill gains support as Trump declares opioid state of emergency]

It's also making changes to its Cerner electronic health record system to help nudge prescribers toward fewer opioid prescriptions, building in new prompts and default order sets for decision support.

"Nationwide, providers tend to write prescriptions for more opioids than patients need, and large quantities of the medications are often left over after the need for pain relief is past," said Doug Smith, MD, Intermountain's associate medical director, in a statement. "We will follow best practices in prescribing so the medications prescribed more closely match the needs of patients.”.

Smith emphasized that patients with acute or chronic pain "will still be able to get the medications they need. We will ensure patients have access to the full range of options to manage pain."

Intermountain bills itself as the first health system to pledge opioid reductions with such specificity. In addition to its efforts on the clinical side, it is also a partner on other initiatives, such as collaboration with the Utah Department of Health and other groups to provide extensive provider and patient education.

The health system's community pharmacies have also installed secure medication disposal drop boxes for unused medications – which have been filled with more than 15,000 pounds of unused medications since 2015.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com