UK HealthCare Awarded National Top Quality Honor for Safer Opioid Practices

America’s Essential Hospitals, a national trade association, has recognized UK HealthCare for its work to develop safer opioid usage practices within an academic health system.

America's Essential Hospitals, which represents 300 hospitals committed to caring for the vulnerable and keeping communities healthy, awarded UK HealthCare a 2019 Gage Award for Improving Quality. The association presented the award June 20, at its annual conference, in Miami.

“When faced with some of the nation’s most pressing health care challenges, essential hospitals step up,” said America’s Essential Hospitals President and CEO Dr. Bruce Siegel. “Their innovative programs to improve quality of care and support their communities lead the way for systemic change.”

The Gage Awards, named after association founder Larry Gage, honor and share successful and creative member hospital programs that improve patient care and meet community needs. The Gage Award for improving quality recognizes activities that improve the quality of care delivered, or reduce or eliminate harmful events to individual patients or groups of patients.

At UK HealthCare, a small pilot study in 2013 with new protocols for opioid prescription showed promise for reducing the amount of opioids patients took home at discharge, thus reducing the risk of patients developing an addiction. Through the creation of an opioid stewardship committee and an official Office of Opioid Safety led by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Chang and pharmacist Douglas Oyler, UK HealthCare expanded these protocols across the health system. This led to more than 1,300 fewer opioid prescriptions at discharge and a 57 percent decrease in high-risk opioid use, while maintaining aggregate pain scores.

“Kentucky ranks 5th in the U.S. for opioid deaths, and our people have suffered through the opioid epidemic since its inception,” said Dr. Mark Newman, UK executive vice president for health affairs. “As the major academic medical center serving the state, it’s our responsibility not only to treat patients suffering from opioid use disorder and addiction, but to develop ways to prevent this disease from occurring in the first place. Projects like this one led by UK HealthCare pharmacist Doug Oyler and trauma surgeon Dr. Phillip Chang are essential to help more patients manage their pain with the minimal effective dose of opioids – if any. By educating physicians on best practices for prescribing opioids, we can reduce the number of patients at risk for this disease.”