Educating doctors about best practices for prescribing pain medication has been proven to curb prescription drug misuse, yet time and cost constraints keep many physicians from accessing such training. To ensure clinicians receive this education and to help curb Indiana’s opioid epidemic, state medical leaders are leveraging mobile technology, such as a mobile app and podcasts, to launch a medical education program focused on best practices for prescribing opioids and treating patients who suffer from pain.
The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation has awarded $230,000 to fund the program, which the Indiana State Medical Association (ISMA) will launch later this year.
To provide the most up-to-date information in a convenient format for time-strapped clinicians, ISMA will develop mobile technology to deliver the education through on-demand podcasts, a mobile app and live webinars. The training is free for health providers through the end of this year, and webinars will remain available online after each live presentation, according to the press release.
ISMA’s mobile app will break down barriers to access and will ensure doctors receive the most current information. It is among the first technology-based education programs focused exclusively on opioid prescribing for physicians and other providers in Indiana, the association said.
ISMA will offer the opioid-prescribing courses to Indiana’s thousands of doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and registered nurses, using content developed with partners such as the Indiana Hospital Association, specialty societies and health systems, according to a press release. The material will be based on best practices and customized for different medical specialties.
“If we’re going to address Indiana’s rising opioid epidemic, we have to focus not only on treatment, but also on prevention,” Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, said in a statement. “By empowering clinicians with the knowledge they need to prescribe judiciously and connect patients with non-opioid pain management tools, we can help curb high prescription drug rates and stem the tide of opioid misuse that continues to devastate Hoosier families and communities.”
The initiative comes just as state lawmakers are increasing requirements for doctors to receive opioid-focused training. This year, the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Bill 225 requiring all doctors to receive at least two hours of training on opioid prescription practices every two years.
A survey of ISMA member physicians showed 100 percent of respondents believe opioid education is “highly important.” Other research shows physicians find it difficult to access such training in a timely manner and to keep up with the latest information, partly because they must prioritize ongoing training to remain certified in their medical specialties. They also may not have time to attend classes in person.
“Broad education is essential to making a difference in stemming the opioid epidemic,” John P. McGoff, M.D., president of the Indiana State Medical Association and an emergency room doctor, said in a statement. “Physicians play a crucial role by keeping up with best practices, guidelines and regulations. With the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation grant, ISMA can lead the way in provider education, in real time.”
According to ISMA, the number of opioids prescribed, as well as dosages and the duration of prescriptions, started escalating nationally in the late 1990s, when it became common practice to aggressively treat chronic pain. Increasing the duration and dosage of opioid prescriptions has elevated the risk of overdoses and addiction. The average supply of opioids prescribed in the U.S. rose by nearly 36 percent from 2006 to 2016, and more than 183,000 Americans have died of prescription drug overdoses since 1999.
Educating doctors in prescription practices so they can recommend other approaches to pain management has been proven to reduce opioid misuse, and the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse recommends physician education as a way to cut down on prescription drug addiction.