Using default options to decrease opioid prescribing durations

Opportunity

Each day, 91 Americans die from opioid-related overdoses. The opioid epidemic is a growing issue, and new and innovative approaches are needed to address it. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that opioid prescriptions with higher pill burden were associated with a greater probability of continuing to use opioids one and three years later.

Approach

We worked with partners in emergency departments at Penn Medicine to evaluate a change in default settings for the number of pills shown in the electronic health record for new opioid prescriptions. Physicians were prompted to select from 10 or 20 pills or opt-out and type in another quantity.

Impact

The median number of opioid pills per prescription decreased significantly from 11.3 to 10.0 in one emergency department and 12.6 to 10.9 in another. The percent of prescriptions set to the default of 10 pills more than doubled from 21 percent to 43 percent. 

Collaborators

Emergency Departments, Penn Medicine

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