Using electronic health record's data to assess daily dose of opioids prescribed for outpatients with chronic non-cancer pain

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This research intended to examine electronic health record (EHR) based methods for automated estimation of morphine equivalent daily dose (MEDD) of prescribed opioids in primary care research and practice. The study leveraged the health system's audit of adults treated with long-term opioids for chronic non-cancer pain to compare two EHR-based automated MEDD calculation methods: RxSignature (active prescriptions' signature information) and RxQuantity (quantity dispensed for prescriptions issued within the past 90 days). Prescribed opioid EHR data were extracted from the target population at a large US academic health system in a 2-year assessment period. Forty-five € target patients' were selected by the health system for a manual audit by an expert physician who then € manually' calculated the actual MEDD over the past 90 days (RxAudit) for those with discrepancies in the MEDD calculated with RxSignature and RxQuantity. Paired samples t-test compared the MEDD generated by the RxSignature and RxQuantity methods by opioid type in the target population. The audit (n=45) revealed the RxSignature and RxQuantity methods yielded comparable MEDD results for 20 patients and discrepant results for 25 patients. The former group had opioid prescriptions issued at regular intervals for stable, scheduled doses of opioids; the latter group had opioid prescriptions issued irregularly or for changed daily dosing regimen, for as-needed use, or had changes in the dosing regimen or inactive prescriptions mislabeled as active. RxAudit of the EHR of those with discrepant MEDD results (n=25) produced consistent results with those yielded by the RxQuantity, but not the RxSignature, method. Significant differences in MEDD were found for most opioid types when the MEDD was calculated for the target population using the RxSignature and RxQuantity methods. In conclusion, different EHR-based methods for MEDD calculation can lead to vastly different estimates, with implications for research and clinical care outcomes. Standardising data extraction and MEDD calculation algorithms could overcome these challenges, enabling a more accurate and reproducible approach to the dose calculation for prescribed opioids, improving the quality of research and patient safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere001277
JournalFamily Medicine and Community Health
StatePublished - Nov 24 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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