How Clinicians Use Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs: A Qualitative Inquiry

Christi Hildebran, Deborah J. Cohen, Jessica M. Irvine, Carol Foley, Nicole O'Kane, Todd Beran, Richard A. Deyo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Objectives: Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are now active in most states to assist clinicians in identifying potential controlled drug misuse, diversion, or excessive prescribing. Little is still known about the ways in which they are incorporated into workflow and clinical decision making, what barriers continue to exist, and how clinicians are sharing PDMP results with their patients. Design: Qualitative data were collected through online focus groups and telephone interviews. Setting: Clinicians from pain management, emergency and family medicine, psychiatry/behavioral health, rehabilitation medicine, internal medicine and dentistry participated. Patients: Thirty-five clinicians from nine states participated. Methods: We conducted two online focus groups and seven telephone interviews. A multidisciplinary team then used a grounded theory approach coupled with an immersion-crystallization strategy for identifying key themes in the resulting transcripts. Results: Some participants, mainly from pain clinics, reported checking the PDMP with every patient, every time. Others checked only for new patients, for new opioid prescriptions, or for patients for whom they suspected abuse. Participants described varied approaches to sharing PDMP information with patients, including openly discussing potential addiction or safety concerns, avoiding discussion altogether, and approaching discussion confrontationally. Participants described patient anger or denial as a common response and noted the role of patient satisfaction surveys as an influence on prescribing. Conclusion: Routines for accessing PDMP data and how clinicians respond to it vary widely. As PDMP use becomes more widespread, it will be important to understand what approaches are most effective for identifying and addressing unsafe medication use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1186
Number of pages8
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Doctor-Patient Interaction
  • PDMP
  • Prescription Drug Abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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