• By Elizabeth Zimmermann

Science Saturday: Opioids research, beyond surgical prescribing practices

December 4, 2021
a pharmacist writing a prescription and a medicine bottle on the table

In "An Institutional Approach to Managing the Opioid Crisis," the authors describe the elements of Mayo Clinic's Opioid Stewardship Program. The study's first authorHalena Gazelka, M.D., an anesthesiologist, is chair of the program. She works together with the study's senior author, Elizabeth Habermann, Ph.D., deputy director of research in the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, and many others across Mayo Clinic, to identify prescribing practices for opioids — in both acute and chronic pain situations. Together the team has led the transformation of postsurgical prescribing patterns — developing, implementing and validating patient-centric guidelines.

Dr. Halena Gazelka, chair of Opioid Stewardship Program, smiling in Mayo lobby - environmental bio pic
Halena Gazelka, M.D. is chair of Mayo Clinic's Opioid Stewardship Program — a Quality initiative.

"The opioid crisis had not escaped the attention of anyone, and we stepped up quickly to find out where we could make a difference," says Dr. Gazelka. "Mayo Clinic was in the same place as everyone else — we didn't know how many opioids were being prescribed, how much variance we had between providers, procedures or conditions — or frankly, how much waste and potential for misuse were occurring on our watch."

Under Dr. Gazelka's leadership, Mayo began reviewing current practices, workflows, and internal and external guidelines.

"Very little evidence was out there about opioids," says Dr. Habermann. "We realized very quickly that we, Mayo Clinic, needed to build the evidence to not only guide our prescribing clinicians regarding the needs of our patients but prescribers and patients everywhere."

This is where the Mayo Clinic Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery came into play. Center-based work (center co-authors identified with bold type) has helped determine Mayo's baseline prescribing habits across practices and specific surgeries.

Read the rest of the article on Advancing the Science.

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