Atrium Health creates new system to cut down on opioid prescriptions

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Matt Hilton has had plenty of pain stemming from a motorcycle accident and broken leg.

He chooses to deal with that pain without an opioid prescription.

"It served me when I needed it and I was ready to move on," he says.

But most often, it is up to doctors to choose the right treatment. Should a patient like Hilton receive an opiate – or not.

"A lot of these decisions were made in the past based on feelings and notions. Some of which were prejudice," orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Joseph Hsu said.

This is why Hsu and clinical researcher Rachel Seymour at Atrium Health developed a system to let the computers decide.

It is all electronic, sending doctors an alert if a patient shows medication history or other risks to developing an addiction.

It also lets doctors know when a patient has never had the drug.

"It doesn't mean they don't get an opiate. Just means they get the right dose, the right amount, the right exposure," Hsu said.

The doctors say the system also lets them know information like when a patient has been on a historically addictive drug for more than 90 days and when they likely need education on how to use it or get rid of it when no longer needed.

"It turns out that a lot of times, this information was actually not given to the patients," Hsu added.

For Hilton, he is grateful for alternative pain solutions he has pursued, but says he can understand the need for this system and how some drugs could lead down a road of addiction.

"The daily pain can get to you sometimes. You get pain doing things most people are just out and about doing," Hilton said.

Atrium Health doctors and researchers say they would like to get to a point where there is a nationally integrated system that all doctors could work under. They have published information on how to create a system like theirs, hoping other hospitals will follow suit.

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