Sparrow Hospital declining opioid use thanks to IT innovation

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Officials at Sparrow Hospital are using science, math, and some IT innovation to help reduce or eliminate when opioids are prescribed to patients.

Hospital officials say people have a range of health-factors that may place them at a high-risk when opioids get involved, so they implemented a risk assessment tool for opioid safety in the fall of 2015 called the Michigan Opioid Safety Score.

“It takes real-time data from nurse documentation and gives staff a score,” says Sparrow senior application analyst Craig Havican. “This helps the nurses determine whether the patient could be at-risk for respiratory depression from opioids.”

After two years of implementation, Sparrow officials say they’ve seen a significant decrease in the need for the use of Narcan. That’s what doctors use to block the effects of opioids and reverse an overdose — meaning the number of overall opioids being used and abused by Sparrow patients is declining.

Clinical nurse educator Ashley Meyers says, anything Sparrow can do to fight the opioid crisis is important to patient safety.

“We can’t get around the fact that some patients might need it, but obviously, we strive to give it the least amount of times possible.”

If a patient shows a high-risk for an adverse effect to opioids based off a Michigan Opioid Safety Score, other modes of pain-relief are provided to hopefully keep opioids away. Some of those other options to treat pain don’t even include medication at all, such as recently expanding their pet therapy program to treat patients.

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