Will Hospitals Be Held Accountable if Patients Become Addicted to Opioids?

Stories from NPR and Fierce Healthcare are raising the question, will hospitals be held accountable if patients become addicted to opioids? Both stories include statements from Andrew Kolodny, M.D., director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing who attributes the nation’s opioid epidemic to overprescribing of opioids and says many physicians don’t understand how quickly addiction can happen.

Recently, as reported in the NPR article, “A handful of doctors and hospital administrators are asking, if an opioid addiction starts with a prescription after surgery or some other hospital-based care, should the hospital be penalized? As in: Is addiction a medical error along the lines of some hospital-acquired infections?” Kolodny weighs in on the issue, quoted in the Fierce Healthcare article as saying, “Putting hospitals on the hook for the consequences of aggressive opioid prescribing makes sense to me.”

Fierce describes some possible ramifications for hospitals this way: “Punishing hospitals could have implications for patient experience scores, which in turn would impact reimbursement revenue. Hospitals could get lower scores on patient surveys that ask patients how well their provider managed their pain.”

As physicians and hospitals in New York are aware, New York State limits initial opioid prescriptions to seven days and requires narcotic prescribers to complete mandatory CMEs related to controlled substances. MLMIC urges providers and facilities to follow established protocols related to opioid prescriptions and to actively engage in efforts to prevent overprescription.

Three of MLMIC’s risk management tips relate to the topic:

For guidance regarding a specific situation, please contact MLMIC’s Risk Management Department at (800) 275-6564.