Jan 15, 2018

Article in Hospital News: Tackling the Opioid Crisis Through Physician Education

From Hospital News, January 2018

While mainstream news sources reporting on the nation’s opioid crisis tend to focus on opioids that are illegally manufactured and sold, those prescribed legitimately for pain can also influence the misuse of opioids and result in addiction. Management of opioids to treat chronic pain can present significant patient safety concerns and is an increasing medical-legal difficulty for Canadian doctors. Canada ranks only second to the United States in the per capita consumption of prescription opioids, and opioid management remains a complex challenge for Canadian physicians

In May, the National Pain Center at McMaster University published the 2017 Canadian Guideline for Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain. This set out recommendations for Canadian doctors in the prescribing of opioid medication. However, this remains as complex area for physicians, as many of them have difficulty in managing the conversation surrounding opioid usage.

Canadian healthcare professionals, researchers and educators are making efforts to tackle this challenge through educational programs that help physicians navigate the complexities of opioid prescribing and reduce the risk of misuse and addiction.  One example of this type of program is the University of Toronto’s “Safer Opioid Prescribing, A Multimodal Program for Chronic Pain and Opioids”. The program consists of three webinars and an in-person skill-development workshop. It was originally developed in 2012-2013 by faculty at the University’s Department of Family and Community Medicine to address the educational gaps in chronic pain and opioid prescribing.  Specifically, faculty recognized the need to develop a program that was evidence-based, free of industry conflicts of interest and accessible to busy physicians, especially those in rural and remote communities that have been hardest hit by the opioid crisis and typically have poorer access to high quality education.  More than 600 physicians from across the country have participated in the program to date and it was among the first to be compliant with the 2017 Guidelines.

Since the program’s inception, the webinars have been available to all physicians in Canada and the workshop has been held in Ontario.  However, through a newly announced partnership between the University of Toronto and Saegis, a new subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), the workshop component of the program is being expanded. Starting in 2018 workshops will also be offered in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta. It is expected that other provinces will follow in 2018 and beyond.

Saegis was launched in August 2017 to offer new programs that extend beyond the CMPA’s current offerings, including in-depth continuing professional development programs that address the specific educational needs of physicians and healthcare professionals. Because increasing access to high quality medical education has been identified as a key strategy in addressing Canada’s opioid crisis, Saegis considered an opioid program to be a high priority and found the University of Toronto, with its high quality and well-regarded Safer Opioid Prescribing program, to be the ideal partner.

“We have a common objective of supporting physicians with the best possible tools for managing opioid prescribing, and the U of T program is highly innovative and effective, with blended learning to maximize competency building.” says Dr. Tom Lloyd, Director, Saegis Safety Institute. “We wanted to give more physicians access to the program because supporting them in providing care to patients is an important step in effectively addressing opioid prescribing challenges.” 

“We are facing a national crisis and need to collaborate widely to expand access to evidence-based interventions.  Partnering with Saegis to deliver prescriber education workshops across Canada will do just this,” added Dr. Abhimanyu Sud, Academic Director, Safer Opioid Prescribing.

Physicians interested in registering for the webinars and workshops or learning more about the program can visit the University of Toronto’s website or the Saegis website.

Authors: Christina Flavell and Renice Jones

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