Colorado Hospital Association announces success in pilot program to reduce opioid administration in the emergency department |

Colorado Hospital Association announces success in pilot program to reduce opioid administration in the emergency department

Kelly Ragan

Some area hospitals working to curb opioid abuse found some preliminary success participating in six-month pilot project to find alternative pain medications for patients.

The Colorado Hospital Association announced Thursday that emergency departments that participated in the Colorado Opioid Safety Pilot, including UCHealth Greeley Emergency, saw a 36 percent reduction in opioid administration compared to the same time period in 2016.

That amounts to about 35,000 fewer individual opioid administrations between the 2017 pilot period and the 2016 baseline period, according to a news release. That surpassed the original pilot goal of a 15 percent reduction.

"It's fantastic," said Eric Olsen, an emergency physician with Medical Center of the Rockies. "It shows this is a very good and viable way to successfully treat people for painful conditions."

In June 2017, Jamie Teumer, an emergency physician with UCHealth, said the goal of the pilot was to implement more non-opioid alternatives to treat patients' pain, since many people struggling with addiction are first exposed to opioids in medical settings.

UCHealth started handing out informational pamphlets on opioids when they were prescribed. The handout details why the hospital would be using alternatives, signs and symptoms of opioid addiction and a list of resources. UCHealth hospitals also cut back on the number of pills given with each prescription. There are a number of other medications emergency departments used for acute pain, such as Lidocaine, Haldol, Ketamine and Benadryl.

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UCHealth Greeley Emergency and Surgery Center, UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies, UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital, UCHealth Emergency Department Harmony Campus and UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center were among the facilities that participated in the pilot.

Two UCHealth facilities saw more than a 40 percent reduction, Olsen said.

Vanessa Knapp, emergency medicine pharmacist with UCHealth, helped coordinate the pilot program. Moving forward, she said, UCHealth will continue to use those alternative options.

The public was for the most part very open to the changes, Knapp said.

"Long-term we hope it decreases their risk of opiate addiction and adequately treats their pain," Knapp said.

Olsen said reducing opioid use in the emergency department is just the first step. They're still working to make developments outside the hospital in outpatient settings. He mentioned developing options such as syringe access programs for outpatient help. "Expect more things to come," Olsen said.

The report released by the Colorado Hospital Association concluded that the pilot demonstrated alternative methods for pain treatment in the emergency department are feasible, and recommended it should be implemented as soon as possible.

"We're trying not to keep this to ourselves," Olsen said. "Anyone can use this."

To learn more

To learn more about the pilot program, go to