Local hospital takes new approach to battle opioid epidemic

Posted at 6:33 PM, Jun 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-12 20:49:17-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Hospitals are taking a new approach to battling the opioid epidemic, and it's working.

Local doctors at the Swedish Medical Center are completely changing how they prescribe opioid pain killers, and the process will be followed at eight other hospitals in Colorado.

ER pharmacist Rachael Duncan helped implement the program and write the guidelines for what has been a year-long pilot program at Swedish Medical center.

The hospital has cut opioid usage by more than 25 percent, an astounding number considering how most addictions begin with a prescription pain killer.

“Patients can become addicted in little as three days," said Duncan.

She works in a Level-I trauma center and helps doctors and nurses look for other options to opioid painkillers, to lessen the likelihood of patient addiction.

"I’m going to be more thoughtful about how I’m going to treat your pain," said Duncan. "Patients, I think, appreciate us having that conversation with them about ‘hey, these are high-risk meds.’"

They look at alternatives such as numbing Lidoderm patches, topical creams or IV's of Motrin and other painkillers.

"Point of pressure that you can point to and say this really hurts. They can go in and do a small injection of lidocaine," said Duncan.

Eight other hospitals have joined in and the hope is that the program makes it to every ER in Colorado in 2018. It’s all part of a goal to fight an epidemic that starts with filling a prescription.

"If a patient goes out and has opioids for up to 30 days, they have a 50 percent chance of being on life-long opioid therapy. They go out on a script and a door opens for becoming addicted or a family member finding those pills and becoming addicted,” said Duncan.