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Downstream Acute Care Utilization Following Initial Prescription of an Opioid Pain Reliever Among Emergency Department Patients With Low-Severity Conditions

We sought to investigate the association between receipt of an opioid pain reliever (OPR) in the emergency department (ED) and downstream acute health care utilization. Within Kaiser Permanente Northern California, we identified opioid-naïve patients, ages 18-64, who were treated and discharged from the ED for a painful, low-severity condition between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017. We also identified patients who received an OPR, either administered in the ED or obtained at a Kaiser Permanente Northern California pharmacy within 7 days of ED arrival, and investigated subsequent acute care utilization in cases with at least 1 ED, urgent care, or inpatient visit within 1 month or 3 months of the index encounter or 2 visits within 12 months. Of the 39,468 adults included in our study, 50.7% were female, 55.0% were non-White, and 25.2% received an OPR in association with their index ED encounter. After adjustment, we found that patients who received an OPR had greater odds of downstream acute care utilization than those who did not, with odds ratios of 1.68, 1.53, and 1.50 at 1, 3, and 12 months, respectively (all p < 0.05). Patients who received an OPR at their index encounter had substantially increased odds of a subsequent ED, urgent care, or inpatient visit. This effect was most pronounced early in follow-up and persisted for the duration of the study period. Receipt of an OPR among opioid-naïve adults for a painful, low-severity condition is associated with increased downstream acute care utilization.

Authors: Juergens, Nathan; Wei, Julia; Cullen, Esme; Graubard, Moses; Gupta, Vibha K; Weintraub, Miranda Ritterman; Sax, Dana

Perm J. 2022 Apr 05;26(1):47-56. Epub 2022-04-05.

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