Research RoundUp: Improving communication between health providers to manage opioid use in post-surgical patients

The Research Roundup has expanded to provide a more in-depth insight into publications from across the Faculty. MIPS is releasing weekly summaries highlighting a selection of papers from each theme. If you have a recent publication that you would like to see featured, please email us and we'll pop it in the next edition.

Minimising the supply and impact of opioids requires a multi-faceted approach. New research released in collaboration with Monash University, Austin Health and St Vincent’s Hospital has focused on the transition of opioid-naive patients from surgery to back into the community.

Upon discharge from the hospital, a general practitioner (GP) often become a patient’s primary healthcare provider. However, appropriate planning or handover on how to best manage elements of recovery, such as pain management and opioid use, is often poorly communicated to these primary healthcare providers. Researchers sought to better understand how opioid use and management is communicated to the patient’s primary healthcare providers by evaluating the discharge summaries and consulting with GP’s.

The researchers retrospectively evaluated 527 surgical patient discharge summaries, of which 258 had at least one opioid medication and were included in the review. In addition, the study received survey responses on management of opioid use in discharge patients from 60 GP’s.

From the audit, researchers found that discharge summaries often contained inaccurate or inadequate information about opioids prescribed to patients. These findings were further supported by the survey responses from GP’s. Researchers found four emerging themes reported by GP’s when it came to management of post-surgical patients, these included:

  • inadequacy of discharge information relating to opioids supplied
  • lack of a provision of an opioid management plan
  • differing expectations from patients
  • difficulty managing patients commenced on opioids

While states across the country have been implementing a real-time prescription database to monitor the dispensing opioids, developing other strategies that encourage better communication between hospitals and GP’s will be useful in managing the transition of opioid-naïve patients back into the community.

Article: Evaluation of communication to general practitioners when opioid-naive post-surgical patients are discharged from hospital on opioids.

MIPS authors: Tim Tran, Johnson George & Rohan Elliott

Access the article here