Sentara Healthcare’s hospital-based and free-standing emergency departments (EDs) are adopting safe prescribing guidelines for opioid medications. The guidelines follow recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control, the American Hospital Association and other organizations concerned about prescription opioid abuse.

Sentara ERs adopt safe opioid prescribing position

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Sentara Healthcare’s hospital-based and free-standing emergency departments (EDs) are adopting safe prescribing guidelines for opioid medications. The guidelines follow recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control, the American Hospital Association and other organizations concerned about prescription opioid abuse. Starting in January, 2017, a patient education brochure will be available in Sentara facilities, outlining the guidelines, which include these provisions:

  • We will not administer intravenous or intramuscular opioids for relief of chronic pain conditions.
  • We will not provide replacement prescriptions for prescription opioids that were lost, stolen or destroyed. Refills are the responsibility of your primary or specialty prescribing physician.
  • We will not prescribe long-acting opioids such as oxycodone, extended release morphine, methadone, buprenorphine, hydromorphone or fentanyl patches.
  • We will not prescribe more than 20 opioid pills.

There are important facts to remember about seeking pain medications in emergency departments:

  • The law allows emergency physicians to use their clinical judgement when treating pain and does not require the use of narcotics.
  • Obtaining prescription opioids under false pretenses is a Class 6 felony.
  • Presenting for care under false pretenses is not protected by HIPAA.

A Sentara system-wide ED High Performance Team considered opioid prescribing guidelines as part of its mandate to improve customer service, patient safety and the patient experience and adopted these Safe Prescribing guidelines to help reduce ‘shopping’ for prescription painkillers, reduce inappropriate use of prescription opioids and prevent deaths and emergency hospitalizations caused by opioid overdoses.