Our goal with this initiative was to reduce discharge opioid prescriptions while maintaining optimal pain management through the use of standardized pain prescribing guidelines for pediatric patients after orthopedic surgical procedures.
Through analysis of established yet inconsistent prescribing practices, we created a 4-tiered guideline for pediatric orthopedic postoperative pain management prescription ordering. Following the Model for Improvement methodology including iterative plan-do-study-act cycles, the team created an electronic medical record order set to be used at discharge from the hospital. The provider compliance with this order set was monitored and analyzed over time by using provider-level and aggregate control charts. A secondary measure of opioid prescriptions (morphine milligram Eq [MME] dosage per patient) was tracked over time. The balancing measure was the analysis of unanticipated opioid prescription refills.
Greater than 90% compliance with the guidelines was achieved and sustained for 20 months. This resulted in a 54% reduction in opioids prescribed during the improvement period (baseline = 71 MME per patient; postintervention = 33 MME per patient) and has been sustained for 12 months. The percentage of unanticipated opioid prescription refills did not significantly change from the period before the institution of the guidelines and after institution of the guidelines (2017 = 3%; 2019 = 3%).
The creation of these guidelines has led to a significant reduction in the number of opioids prescribed while maintaining effective postoperative pain management.