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Physician survey examining the impact of an educational tool for responsible opioid prescribing

Aaron Young, PhD, Kelly C. Alfred, MS, Philip P. Davignon, MA, LaSharn M. Hughes, MBA, Lisa A. Robin, MLA, Humayun J. Chaudhry, DO


Introduction: In response to the need for physician education on proper opioid prescribing, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the FSMB Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the FSMB, commissioned and distributed Responsible Opioid Use: A Physician’s Guide to more than 165,000 licensed physicians in the United States. The book, written by pain management specialist Scott Fishman, MD, seeks to further physicians’ continuing medical education by providing information on how to properly prescribe opioids to treat patients in pain. Although the book has been widely distributed, there have been no systematic studies of its impact. To address this knowledge gap, the authors surveyed licensed physicians in Georgia who received a copy of the book to determine whether it added to their knowledge about prescribing opioids, and if they planned to make changes in their practice based on reading the book.
Methods: Six weeks after licensed physicians in Georgia received the book, a survey was sent to 12,666 of them via e-mail.
Results: A total of 508 physicians completed the online survey. Of these, 82.1 percent rated the book either “very good” or “good” on providing pragmatic steps for improved care for patients in pain, and more than 80 percent agreed that the book is a useful educational tool. Almost one-third (32.2 percent) claimed that they intend to make changes to their practice after reading the book. The analysis also showed physicians in a solo practice were more likely to make changes (41.8 percent) than their counterparts in office-based group practice (33.3 percent) and hospital-based (25.0 percent) settings. Primary care providers (41.6 percent) were also much more likely to make changes than physicians working in other specialty areas of medicine (22.8 percent). Well over half (57.7 percent) of the respondents indicated the book was better than other publications they had read on opioid prescribing and pain management.
Conclusions: The results from this state-wide survey of licensed physicians demonstrate the value of educating physicians about how to appropriately prescribe, document, and treat patients who need opioid medications for pain management. The findings should be of value to organizations seeking to better educate physicians about appropriate opioid prescribing by providing insight into which physician population would be the most receptive to the type of information presented in Dr. Fishman’s book. When faced with limited resources, an organizational strategy that first targets solo and primary care practitioners may improve physician educational efforts about prescribing opioids better than a strategy targeting medical and surgical specialists or those physicians participating in group practice settings.


pain management, opioids, prescribing, continuing medical education

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