Stories of opioids addiction and overdoses have been front and centre in the media over the past year. Yet, when prescribed safely, opioids can better the lives of our patients; an estimated 15-29% of Canadians experience chronic pain (Fischer & Argento, 2012).
As specialists, many whom prescribe opioids to manage acute and chronic pain, what can we do to improve our knowledge of opioids prescribing?
Here’s an overview of the Royal College’s activities on this file summarized under three main themes:
- Patient safety
- We believe everyone (physicians and patients) has a role to play in in promoting and maintaining health, while lessening preventable harms associated with opioid usage.
- Prevention begins with supporting education activities for Fellows on safe prescribing practices, which informs patient education.
- We are piloting a web-based tool for assessing physicians-in-practice on their competency in prescribing medications.
- Currently, Canada has no mechanism for assessing this competency. To bridge this knowledge gap, we are collaborating with the British Pharmacology Society, using their expertise and technology in web-based assessment of prescribing competencies.
- Commitment to Fellows and residents
- In late November, a Royal College delegation was invited to participate in an Opioid Conference and Summit in Ottawa, hosted by the Honourable Jane Philpott, Federal Minister of Health, and the Honourable Eric Hoskins, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-term Care.
- During this summit, we committed to several items:
- Develop a Royal College statement of principles on safe opioid prescribing. We are on track to present this to the Executive Committee of Council next month.
- Create a central online catalogue to host educational and practice-related reference resources, accessible to all Fellows and residents. These resources, sourced nationally and globally, will focus on the medical and surgical dimensions of safe opioid prescribing and provide users with the tools needed to keep their competency updated.
- Participation as a member organization of the Pan-Canadian Collaborative on Education for Improved Opioid Prescribing (led by the College of Family Physicians of Canada)
- In addition to creating the online catalogue, we will be reaching out to Fellows who manage patients with acute or chronic pain, to determine what they need from us in terms of training and education.