The incidence of opioid prescribing and associated overdose deaths in the United States has been increasing since 1999, with the initial introduction of opioids to patients in emergency departments (EDs) appearing to playing a key role in the resultant opioid epidemic. As prescribers may lack a reference point on how their opioid prescribing behaviours compare to their peers, a medical centre in the US supplied their 117 ED prescribers with individual feedback regarding their prescribing to ascertain the effects. It was found that the combined opioid prescribing rates observed before and after the intervention were 8.6% (95% CI: 8.3%–8.9%) and 5.8% (95% CI: 5.5%–6.1%) respectively. A statistical process control chart determined special cause variation both before and after the intervention, while an interrupted time series analysis demonstrated an immediate decrease in opioid prescribing rates following the intervention. The original research, which can be viewed here, indicates that feedback regarding opioid prescribing in comparison to peers is linked to a significant immediate decrease in ED opioid prescribing rates.

Contributed by Australian Medication Safety Services Associate – Isabella Singh