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National Patient Safety Awareness Week 2019: The Opioid Work Group

National Patient Safety Awareness Week is March 10-16. Although the TeamHealth Patient Safety Organization has an extensive portfolio of initiatives in place, we want to highlight how the TeamHealth Opioid Work Group assists clinicians with improving patient safety and the quality of healthcare delivery in the midst of our nation’s opioid epidemic.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11.5 million Americans abused prescription opioids in 2016 and there were 47,000 overdose deaths involving opioids in 2017. Many with opioid use disorder become addicted through therapeutic opioid use, while others may use non-prescribed opioids recreationally. TeamHealth formed the Opioid Work Group to implement strategies to reduce mortality, recognize and treat addiction and appropriately address chronic pain, while effectively managing acute pain.

The Opioid Work Group was established in May 2018. Since its inception, the top three achievements include creation of the TeamHealth Opioid Legislative and Regulatory Position Statement, developing guidelines for Peer Recovery Coach Programs and providing educational opportunities, including two webinars focused on opioid stewardship and acute pain management.

Many state legislatures and government agencies have proposed and enacted legislative and regulatory solutions. These initiatives impact the delivery of healthcare, and thus, our patients and clinicians. The Work Group identified eight (8) general principles with accompanying position statements. The goal for this document is to provide a clear and concise position statement, from the clinicians’ perspective, that may help guide our future legislative and regulatory advocacy efforts.

The Peer Recovery Coach Program provides an innovative option for patients with substance use disorder (SUD) that present to the emergency department (ED). Peer Recovery Coaches are unique in the sense that they have a personal lived experience and are specially trained to assist individuals by removing obstacles and barriers to recovery. Dr. Brandt Williamson and Dr. James Baird, both members of the Opioid Work Group, developed programs at their hospital sites. The guidelines include operational start-up considerations (i.e. barriers and mitigation strategies), year-end programmatic data that helps determine effectiveness, financial impact information and real-life vignettes. These guidelines were developed as a road map and operational toolkit for implementing Peer Recovery Coach programs.

Clinical education is a top priority for enhancing patient safety. Two webinars that focused on opioid stewardship and acute pain management were developed and launched for TeamHealth clinicians. These webinars provide state-of-the-art clinical education and practical solutions with respect to opioid use and reduction of their use.

Aside from the above achievements, the Work Group has collated and developed 35 resources to aid clinicians in opioid management that range from tools to stay informed with regulatory updates to sample policies that can be used in daily practice. You can find a short bio on each of the 16 work group members here.

The Opioid Work Group is made up of clinicians from all specialties and includes physicians, advanced practice clinicians and a regulatory affairs expert. For more information, contact Abbie Tapp-Pearson.

Visit TeamHealth’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and use the official hashtag #PSAW19 this week to see more on Patient Safety.


Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP
Chief Medical Officer, Hospital Based Services
Executive Director, TeamHealth Patient Safety Organization
Chief Risk Officer

Abbie Tapp-Pearson, RN, MSN, MBA
Director, TeamHealth Patient Safety Organization

Opioid Crisis Management Resource Categories
Legislative and Regulatory Tools
State Specific Requirements
Metric Recommendations
Peer Recovery Specialist Program
Medication Assisted Treatment Resources
Naloxone Resources
Sample Policies
– Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO)
– Chronic Pain
– Emergency Medicine Specific
Practice Enhancing Publications
Opioid Management Educational Activities