Doctors, health officials call for revised approach to opioid prescriptions

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Painkillers are an essential component for treating millions of patients, but growing concern about addiction and abuse has prompted a group of U.S. state health officials, public advocates and doctors to call for change.

A letter, released April 13, asks CMS to revise its guidelines for treating pain in hospitals and clinics, arguing current standards are too aggressive and contribute to painkiller addiction. Organized by the advocacy group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, the letter directly calls for changes in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey.

“Hospitals are financially incentivized by CMS to obtain high scores on HCAHPS survey questions," read the statement. "The questions on the survey pertaining to treatment of pain have had the unintended consequence of encouraging aggressive opioid use in hospitalized patients and upon discharge.”

CMS has said it will respond to the letter, which comes less than a month after the Centers for Disease Control released new guidelines for painkillers in an effort to limit opioid addiction. Additionally, legislative efforts have been made to remove the connection between patient satisfaction and hospital reimbursement. Specifically, the proposed PROP Act would end the use of pain management questions in factoring Medicare reimbursement.

According to the CDC, nearly 19,000 deaths in 2014 were linked to the misuse of prescription opioids.