Current Issue - August 2022 - Vol 25 Issue 5


  1. 2022;25;381-386An Observational Study on the Use of a Patient Navigator to Help Improve Outcomes in Patients on Chronic Opioids
    Prospective Study
    Amol Soin, MD, David Barrall, MD, Joe Chen, MD, Anu Patel, MHCDS, Ann Pollack, MHCDS, and Amos Wangombe, MHCDS.

BACKGROUND: In the United States, the prevalence of opioid use disorders has increased in recent years along with an attendant rise in the incidence of chronic pain disorders and prescription opioid use. Patient navigation services have been used to improve health outcomes in cancer and other chronic disease states, but it is unclear whether the implementation of patient navigation services can facilitate improved outcomes among patients receiving chronic opioid therapy.

OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to compare the outcomes of patients receiving chronic opioid therapy plus patient navigation services and those receiving chronic opioid therapy as a part of usual care.

STUDY DESIGN: This was a prospective, observational study. Consecutive patients receiving chronic opioid therapy were enrolled, with alternating assignments to patient navigation (n = 30) or usual care (n = 30). Participants in the patient navigation group received support from a non-physician, non-advanced practice provider staff member who initiated frequent contact via telephone, telemedicine, or in-clinic visits to discuss the patient’s health goals. The minimum follow-up period was 90 days. Outcomes qualitatively compared across groups included final pain score, final morphine milligram equivalent (MME) per day, and discharge rates. Risk factors for discharge within the navigation group were assessed. Patient feedback was also solicited.

SETTING: This study was conducted at a single independent pain clinic in the United States.

RESULTS: Demographic features were similar between the navigator group and the control group. The control group had a higher average initial pain score (7.0/10) than the intervention group (5.9/10) and were receiving a higher initial dose of opioids (23.1 vs 19.0 MME/d). After an average follow-up of 108.7 days, patients in the navigator group had a 16% decrease in final opioid dose compared with a 23% increase in the control group. Furthermore, patients in the control group were discharged from the practice at a higher rate (23.3% vs 6.6%), suggesting increased opioid misuse in the control group compared with the navigator group. In the navigator group, higher levels of anxiety and depression were the primary predictors of discharge.

LIMITATIONS: This was a single-center study with a small sample size. The generalizability of these results to other clinic settings is unknown.

CONCLUSIONS: Patient navigation decreased opioid use and practice discharge compared with usual care in an independent pain clinic, suggesting a role for patient navigation in reducing opioid misuse and potentially reducing adverse events.

KEY WORDS: Opioid prescribing, patient navigation, Opioid Risk Tool, opioid nonadherence, anxiety, depression