Impact of Hospital “Best Practice” Mandates on Prescription Opioid Dispensing After an Emergency Department Visit

Benjamin C. Sun, Nicoleta Lupulescu-Mann, Christina J. Charlesworth, Hyunjee Kim, Daniel M. Hartung, Richard A. Deyo, K. John McConnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective: Washington State mandated seven hospital “best practices” in July 2012, several of which may affect emergency department (ED) opioid prescribing and provide a policy template for addressing the opioid prescription epidemic. We tested the hypothesis that the mandates would reduce opioid dispensing after an ED visit. We further assessed for a selective effect in patients with prior risky or chronic opioid use. Methods: We performed a retrospective, observational analysis of ED visits by Medicaid fee-for-service beneficiaries in Washington State, between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2013. We used an interrupted time-series design to control for temporal trends and patient characteristics. The primary outcome was any opioid dispensing within 3 days after an ED visit. The secondary outcome was total morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) dispensed within 3 days. Results: We analyzed 266,614 ED visits. Mandates were associated with a small reduction in opioid dispensing after an ED visit (–1.5%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = –2.8% to –0.15%). The mandates were associated with decreased opioid dispensing in 42,496 ED visits by patients with prior risky opioid use behavior (–4.7%, 95% CI = –7.1% to –2.3%) and in 20,238 visits by patients with chronic opioid use (–3.6%, 95% CI = –5.6% to –1.7%). Mandates were not associated with reductions in MMEs per dispense in the overall cohort or in either subgroup. Conclusions: Washington State best practice mandates were associated with small but nonselective reductions in opioid prescribing rates. States should focus on alternative policies to further reduce opioid dispensing in subgroups of high-risk and chronic users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-913
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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