Cedars-Sinai awarded $2 million to study communication techniques in opioid pain relief

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A team of Cedars-Sinai researchers, led by Michelle S. Keller, MPH, have received $2 million from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to study effective methods for physicians to discuss opioid use in chronic pain patients.

Many current studies look at prescription drug claims to measure results, but this study will use a combination of patient surveys, consumer advocates, addiction specialist and primary care providers to evaluate the most effective ways to communicate with chronic pain patients. Over the course of a year, the study will test two communication strategies with educational materials and digital alerts.

"More people die of drug overdoses in the U.S. than car accidents or guns. This sobering statistic reveals a massive, nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction that is costing lives and money," said Brennan M. Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai. "Our study will test whether we can use the electronic health record to disrupt how pain treatments are discussed and managed between patients and providers, with the goal of reducing inappropriate overuse of opioids."

The study will establish a baseline by surveying participants a month prior to measure quality of life, overall health, pain levels and their reports on communication with their primary care physician. Electronic medical records and pharmaceutical claims will allow researchers to measure pain medication use.  

"Incorporating patients' perspectives into the study design ensures that the findings will be relevant to real people in general medical practices, and not just some highly selected sample," said Itai Danovitch, MD, MBA,  director of addiction psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai. "The focus on assessing 'quality of life' means that the study will extend beyond evaluating symptoms and will tell us whether the interventions impact health in a way that patients themselves find meaningful."