Even as opiate medications have received increased scrutiny from legislators, health care workers, and patient advocacy groups this drug class remains one of the most effective at treating acute and chronic pain. Emerging research suggests that physicians must take an increasingly central role in the long-term use of these drugs in order to check the development of addiction in patients. Physicians prescribing opiates for chronic pain management can use many different strategies with the goal of preventing opiate addiction in patients and other adverse outcomes. In-office dispensing is one such strategy that combines several different approaches to addiction prevention, including physician/patient contracts, error reduction in prescription dispensing, and improving patient education.
How In-Office Dispensing Works in Pain Management Scenarios
Some physicians and group practices have chosen to implement in office prescription dispensing services to retain patients, and address specialty care needs. This dispensing strategy is especially useful in practices focused on particular areas of care such as:
- Diabetes management
- Pain management
Patients can receive essential drugs much faster through an on-site pharmacy; this is especially valuable when a course of medication needs to be started quickly or when additional instruction is needed for a patient to safely use a particular drug.
Reducing Prescription Error Through Improved Oversight
Improving the communication between prescribers and pharmacy employees can help reduce prescription errors; much greater oversight is possible when medication is dispensed on-site. Members of a patient’s pain management team can personally verify any dispensing and provide correction or clarification to pharmacy workers. Pharmacists can also alert physicians and nurses immediately to any concerns raised by the patient or by the pharmacy team. This additional oversight can extend to reporting and record-keeping to detect any long-term patterns that suggest the need for closer examination.
Creating Physician/Patient Contracts for Opiate Medication Use
Written agreements spelling out the correct use of opiate medications along with the rights and responsibilities of both physician and patient have been successfully used to check problematic behavior associated with addiction. These contracts can – and ideally should – be familiar to pharmacy team members handling opiate medication. When dispensing takes place in the same office as prescribing pharmacy technicians and pharmacists can be kept up-to-date on any adjustments or modifications made to the contract; the elimination of a contract can also be shared with relevant personnel.
These care contracts are useful in spelling out to patients exactly what kind of action is required for on-going pain management services as well as what actions will result in the termination of management and prescribing services. Patients meanwhile, can feel confident that their prescription needs are being handled correctly at every refill. Fewer refills are interrupted due to communication delays and clarification is possible at every step.
Educating Physicians and Patients About Opiate Medication Use and Abuse
The clinical knowledge base regarding opiate medication as a class, various opiate drugs specifically, opiate use, and opiate addiction is growing every year. Physicians and patients can benefit in many ways from becoming educated on these and related subjects. By reviewing newly published findings physicians can discover the very latest scientific knowledge. This can lead to improved prescribing practices, more informed assessments, and other target care outcomes.
Even patients that have been using a prescription for a long time may be relatively uninformed about safe use, medication disposal, and other essential topics. Long-term use of opiates may lead to patients believing they know everything about a drug and how it affects them. This can cause accidental misuse as well as deliberate abuse.
Informed physicians are better able to educate their patients with appropriate knowledge regarding medical use and addiction prevention. On-going education is an essential strategy in preventing opiate addiction in patients.
A Multi-Valent Approach to Addiction Prevention
Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians can all work together in a highly organized team to ensure the accurate and rapid medication dispensing. An in office pharmacy can play a valuable role in successfully implementing the various strategies required for comprehensive addiction prevention.
Adding in office dispensing services, even on a limited scale, to a practice is best achieved with the help of an experienced in office dispensing program provider. The right technical support can aid in record-keeping, reporting, and other operations essential to the successful function of a pharmacy and clinical practice. In many ways, this can prove to be the final link in the chain of opiate addiction prevention.