Best Practice Alert for Opioid Prescribing

  • End date
    Jul 4, 2022
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of Colorado, Denver
Updated on 4 February 2021


The investigators will embed a developed decision support tool into the electronic health record (EHR) to individualize pain therapy in surgical patients after hospital discharge and test its performance in a pragmatic clinical trial.

Preliminary data indicate that current opioid prescription practice after surgery follows a "one size fits all" pattern. In-hospital opioid use prior to discharge serves as a reliable indicator to estimate needs for analgesic medications at home. The investigators will test the hypothesis that the existing tool will enable providers to write need-based prescriptions based on prior-to-discharge opioid use, empower patients to maximize alternatives to opioids (ALTO) therapies at home, while minimizing the need for rescue prescriptions. The investigators will test this tool prospectively in a cohort of ~1,000 providers (primary subjects) and ~39,000 surgical patients (secondary subjects) in four University of Colorado Health (UCHealth) hospitals (clusters to be exposed versus (vs.) non-exposed to the intervention).


Converting knowledge on actual need for opioid pain medications after surgery into tangible benefits can prevent over-prescription of opioids that become available for non-medical use. The objective of this aim is to prescribe pain medications after surgery in a patient-centered fashion. The investigators have used the average amount of opioid medications (in milligram morphine equivalents - MME) taken prior to discharge to inform the clinical decision support tool. This tool will reduce the amount of opioid medications prescribed while maintaining patient post-operative pain control. The calculated "prior to discharge daily MME dose" will be applied to generate a recommendation for the prescription of a cumulative opioid dose that will be displayed when the electronic order entry for the post-discharge pain medication is made in the EHR using a best-practice alert (BPA). In addition, the provider will be prompted to also prescribe non-opioid analgesic medications. This BPA was developed by the Principal Investigator under guidance of the UCHealth System Multidisciplinary Opioid/Pain Management Committee as well as published guidelines.

Based on the relationship between opioids taken prior to discharge and post-discharge opioid intake described above as well as published guidelines for post-discharge prescriptions after surgery will use a tiered approach towards determining the total amount of opioids to be prescribed. Accordingly, the investigators have integrated an algorithm into the BPA such that opioid intake from the EHR only triggers the BPA if the total amount of prescribed opioids exceeds the predicted thresholds.

The opioid prescribing BPA will be assessed over a 44-week period in all eligible patients. At the time of writing the prescription an automatic notification will appear on the care provider's screen that identifies a suggested post-discharge opioid dose within the electronic prescription pad. If approved by the provider, opioid-only prescriptions will be written as suggested. Final dosing decisions and drug choices will remain at the discretion of the treating provider and will be tracked. The investigators will use an all "ON" vs. all "OFF" configuration to answer the questions if the average amount of total opioids per post-discharge prescription is lower with the BPA active. The investigation will commence with two "OFF" periods to assess if reduction in prescribing patterns occurs over time regardless of the intervention. Two "ON" periods at the end of the study will determine if any observed changes in prescribing patterns stabilize or continued changes take place.

Condition Opioid Use, Narcotic Use
Treatment BPA
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04446975
SponsorUniversity of Colorado, Denver
Last Modified on4 February 2021


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Inclusion Criteria

Is your age greater than or equal to 18 yrs?
Gender: Male or Female
Do you have Opioid Use?
Do you have any of these conditions: Opioid Use or Narcotic Use?
Do you have any of these conditions: Narcotic Use or Opioid Use?
Primary subjects
Credentialed providers (attending, fellow, and resident physicians, advanced
practice providers including nurse practitioners and physician assistants) at
each UCH (UC Health) site writing a discharge opioid prescription are eligible
to receive the intervention
Secondary subjects
Adult surgical inpatients age 18 and older within the UCHealth system at 4
different hospitals including UCH Metro, UCH Memorial Central, Medical Center
of the Rockies, and Poudre Valley Hospital

Exclusion Criteria

Primary subjects
Secondary subjects
Less than 18 years of age
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