PROFILE: The Colorado Opioid Safety Pilot

The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) is the leading voice of the state’s hospital community, representing more than 100 hospitals and health systems throughout Colorado. The Association’s mission is to support members’ collaborative commitment to advance the health of their communities through affordable, accessible, high-quality health care. CHA serves it member hospitals and health systems in a number of ways, including legislative policy and advocacy, The Center for Health Information and Data, education and events, and the Colorado Telehealth Network.

Project Summary: Between June and November 2017, CHA is working with select member locations in Colorado to help curb the rise in opioid use. The project, the Colorado Opioid Safety Pilot, is implementing new 2017 Opioid Prescribing and Treatment Guidelines, developed by the Colorado Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (CO-ACEP). These guidelines were developed to help emergency department (ED) clinicians reduce the amount of opioids administered and, instead, use alternatives to opioids (ALTOs) as a first-line treatment for pain. A crucial part of the pilot is the collection of data on the efficacy of ALTOs and establishing best practices surrounding pain management.

Successes: Anecdotal feedback from the initial months of the program indicate that providers are glad to employ new techniques (e.g., trigger point injections) and that patient satisfaction has remained high. In addition, the public has become so aware of the opioid epidemic, that most patients are glad to have a conversation with their ED provider about these alternatives and how to best treat pain without needing an opioid.

Challenges: For so long, opioids have been the go-to prescription for pain management and many providers had to work to change their habits.

Impact: The goal of the pilot is to reduce opioid administration by ED clinicians by 15 percent. In the two short months the pilot has been active, a few sites have reported surpassing the goal. However, sustainment of that progress is crucial. The program is receiving national attention, with other state and health systems reaching out to CHA with questions about implementation.

CHA would like to thank their partners on this project: the CO-ACEP, the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, Telligen, and the Colorado Emergency Nurses Association.