Implementation of a Quality Improvement Initiative to Decrease Opioid Prescribing After Cesarean Delivery

Malavika Prabhu, Heloise Dubois, Kaitlyn James, Lisa R Leffert, Laura E Riley, Brian T Bateman, Marie Henderson
Obstetrics and Gynecology 2018, 132 (3): 631-636

OBJECTIVE: To assess whether a multiphase, departmental quality improvement effort decreases opioid prescribing and increases multimodal analgesic use after cesarean delivery.

METHODS: This is a prospective quality improvement study. In phase 1 of the protocol, discharge providers implemented counseling regarding expectations for pain, typical need for opioids, and importance of multimodal nonopioid analgesic use and used shared decision-making to determine the number of opioids prescribed. Patients could select up to a maximum of 30 tablets of 5 mg oxycodone (or equivalent opioid), lower than the previous routine discharge prescription of 40 opioid tablets. The primary outcome was the mean (SD) number of opioid tablets prescribed on discharge with secondary outcomes including opioid refill rate within 30 days of discharge and rates of nonopioid analgesic prescriptions on discharge. In phase 2, using these results, we adjusted the protocol's maximum opioid prescription to 25 opioid tablets, but no other aspects of the protocol were changed. All data were analyzed with t test and χ analyses.

RESULTS: Data from 624 women who underwent cesarean deliveries were analyzed. Opioids, most commonly oxycodone, were prescribed after 95% of all cesarean deliveries. The mean (SD) number of opioid tablets prescribed decreased from 33.2 (9.3) to 26.5 (6.7; P<.01) with the implementation of phase 1 having no effect on the opioid refill rate, 8.9% vs 8.1% (P=.79). These results allowed adjustment of the maximum recommended prescription to 25 opioid tablets, introducing phase 2 of the study, during which the mean (SD) number of opioid tablets prescribed further decreased from 24.9 (7.5) to 21.5 (6.3; P<.01) with no effect on the opioid refill rate, 6.3% vs 5.1% (P=.72). Overall, this represents a 35% decrease in opioid prescribing (P<.01). Rates of ibuprofen prescribing were 98% or higher throughout the study, but rates of acetaminophen prescribing increased from 32.6% before phase 1 to 92.0% after phase 2 (P<.001).

CONCLUSION: Implementation of a multiphase quality improvement protocol to decrease opioid prescribing, combined with iterative review of discharge data, resulted in a significant decrease in the number of opioid tablets prescribed after cesarean delivery.

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