Updated AHRQ Toolkit Helps Primary Care Providers Manage Patients Taking Opioids

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) today released an updated toolkit to help primary care providers manage patients who have chronic pain and are taking opioid therapy.

The new Self-Service How-To Guide adds an important component to AHRQ’s Six Building Blocks opioid treatment toolkit, a structured, systems-based approach to improving management of patients who use long-term opioid therapy. More than 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses, and more than 10 million people misuse prescription opioids every year, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) statistics.
Ending the crisis of opioid addiction is one of HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar’s four departmental priorities as highlighted in today’s “State of the Department” message. AHRQ has embraced the priority by supporting research to understand the epidemic, analyzing data to quantify it, and disseminating proven strategies that can help solve it.

“I’m proud that AHRQ’s research is helping to develop solutions to this crisis,” said AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna, M.B.A. “We stand with Secretary Azar in working every day to combat the epidemic of opioid misuse.”

The new how-to guide helps primary care practices implement the Six Building Blocks in a 3-stage, 15-month timeline. It is intended for clinicians and staff, quality improvement personnel, practice coaches, and clinic administrators.

“Finding the balance between alleviating pain and ensuring that patients use opioid painkillers appropriately and safely is one of the most challenging jobs facing our doctors and nurses,” said Michael L. Parchman, M.D., M.P.H., senior investigator at the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. “This new guide will help primary care practices strike that balance,” said Dr. Parchman, who was the principal investigator on the AHRQ grant that developed the Six Building Blocks program.

The Six Building Blocks is a program consisting of six key areas practices need to focus on to improve their management of patients who are on long-term opioid therapy. Originally developed with AHRQ funding by investigators at the Kaiser Permanente of Washington Health Research Institute and the University of Washington, the self-guided toolkit was an adaptation of this approach funded by a contract between AHRQ and Abt Associates. Additional support was provided by the Washington State Department of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Washington State’s Olympic Communities of Health.

AHRQ’s mission is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable and affordable, and to work within HHS and with other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used.