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Baptist Memorial Healthcare Is Offering Patients Alternatives To Opioids

MEMPHIS Tenn. ( - To tackle the opioid epidemic Baptist Memorial Healthcare is offering emergency room patients alternatives to opioids.

Hospital officials told Local Memphis since they began their "opioid light" program last January. The program included educating doctors, nurse practitioners and staff about alternatives to opioids and creating guidelines that listed alternatives that can be used base on a patient's diagnosis.

Since implementing the program Baptist has reported:

- 60% drop in the number of milligrams of opioid use

- 50% drop in the number of patients receiving opioids

- 30% increase in patient satisfaction for how pain was treated

- More patients asking that we not use opioids to treat pain

Going opioid light does not ban opioid use. Instead, healthcare professionals consider alternative pain treatment forms first if possible before turning to opioids.

Baptist's clinical pharmacy manager Dawn Waddell said since patients often receive their first exposure to opioids in the emergency department setting, their focus is limiting that exposure and hopefully cutting the chance of people becoming addicted.

"We see them dropped off by car. Their friends are bringing them. Their family members are bringing them," said Lead Pharmacist Zack Brent when asked about the overdoses that come through their doors.

"Our whole emergency dept. staff. We are seeing more and more cases of opioid overdose coming in through our doors and everyone wanted to do something about it," said Dawn Waddell, Clinical Pharmacy Manager.

Waddell said the new approach was a cultural change that took an entire team of nurses, pharmacists, administration and physicians.

"We worked with our physicians and our nurses to provide our physicians with different tools, different medications, different therapies that we could use instead of opioids and decrease patients' pain," said Waddell.

In some cases, hospital staff said the alternative treatments were more effective.

Hospital officials said this is the first systemic approach in the state, and now two state departments are looking at implementing it elsewhere. Baptist is looking at expanding the program to other areas outside of the emergency department.

"It's not that opioids don't have a role, but we've learned how to be more critical, think more critically about when and where to use them, and use the smallest dose of the opioid," said Waddell.

"I think we've taken a unique approach here at Baptist as in the fact we've given our providers extra tools to treat our patients' pain. We haven't taken any tools away. We're an opioid light ED we're not an opioid free ED," said Clinical Staff Pharmacist Julie Bennett.

In another attempt to combat the opioid crisis, the emergency department is working on putting together "harm reduction packets" for overdose patients when they leave the hospital. The packet would include a list of resources and access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone or Narcan.

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