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Published on July 31, 2019

UHS, Excellus work to reduce post-surgical opioids

UHS is one of 17 healthcare organizations in upstate New York working with Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield to reduce the post-surgical use of opioid prescriptions.

Following any of 22 different surgical procedures, UHS is one of the hospitals collaborating with Excellus to avoid the prescribing of unnecessary opioid pills when the patients are discharged from the hospital.

The goal is to lower the risk of opioid misuse by reducing the number of opiate medications prescribed through a collaborative approach that blends the experience of surgeons and their hospitals with the data analytics of Excellus BCBS. The guidelines established by the surgeons themselves will help to ensure that patients can adequately control their pain in the postoperative period.

“We’re honored to play a convening role with our surgeon partners to help them identify best practices, establish prescribing guidelines and periodically review data we collect for them so they can analyze and share their experiences with one another,” said LouAnne Giangreco, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer for health care improvement at Excellus BCBS. “This approach helps us achieve our mission, which is to collaborate with doctors in order to improve care for our members and our communities.”

The surgical quality initiative on opioid prescriptions began in 2018 when surgeons and nurses from 17 hospitals got together with the health plan to address the problems of opioid dependency and abuse.

The surgeons reviewed best practices and reached consensus on appropriate opioid levels to prescribe for patients who have undergone any of 22 different procedures, which range from more intensive total knee replacement surgery to incision-less surgery for bladder tumors.

“The idea was for the surgeons and Excellus BCBS to develop some baseline data on those surgeries, and for the surgeons to set goals that move discharge prescriptions to the agreed-upon best practice levels over time,” said Giangreco. This month marks the beginning of the new measurement period when the health care providers will be able to analyze, compare and demonstrate improvement.

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