Missouri health officials at a disadvantage in fighting opioid epidemic

November 14, 2017 - 6:22 am

Doctors and nurses in Kansas City emergency rooms find themselves in a Catch 22 scenario when it comes to prescribing opioid medications, ER workers tell KMBZ.

In a continuation of the KMBZ Cover Story, The Addict Next Door, doctors, especially in Missouri, are finding themselves in very difficult situations.   

"You see the same patient multiple times, called frequent flyers," said "Reggie," an emergency room nurse who did not want to use his real name. "They come in trying to seek these narcotic prescriptions."

The nurse has worked in multiple ERs in the Kansas City area. 

"We as providers are under pressure to maintain certain patient satisfaction scores," Reggie explained. 

The problem occurs when physicians have to honor their oaths to treat patients while maintaining careers in their chosen profession.

"A physician is under a lot of pressure because they can't get too many complaints," Reggie said. "They're in the crosshairs of the hospital, the crosshairs of management."

The new drug registry in Missouri, when it comes online, will help, as frequent flyers can be more easily denied prescriptions.

Reggie finds himself feeling pessimistic because until drug registries communicate across state lines, border hoppers will remain a problem. 

The frequent flyer problem is not not as bad at the University of Kansas Health System, said Samaneh Wilkinson, a pharmacist. The KU pharmacy is now integrated with EPIC, a system that reveals other physicians' prescriptions with the hospital system, a measure that helps prevent doctor-shopping. 

Kansas also has an internet-based prescription drug monitoring program called K-TRACS. All pharmacies are required to electronically submit prescriptions into the online database.  

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