Editor's Choice| Volume 47, ISSUE 11, P1035-1044, November 2022

Impact of an Electronic Health Record Pain Medication Prescribing Tool on Opioid Prescriptions for Postoperative Pain in Hand, Orthopedic, Plastic, and Spine Surgery Across a Health Care System

Published:September 29, 2022DOI:


      We hypothesized that a pain management prescribing tool embedded in the electronic health record system of a multihospital health care system would decrease prescription opioids for postoperative pain by hand, orthopedic, plastic, and spine surgeons.


      A prescribing tool for postoperative pain was designed for hand, orthopedic, plastic, and spine surgeons and implemented into electronic discharge order sets in a 10-hospital health care system. Stakeholders were educated on tool use in person and/or by email on 2 occasions. A dashboard was created to monitor opioid pill quantities and morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) prescribed. Overall compliance with the suggested opioid amounts was assessed for 20 months after tool implementation. A subgroup of 6 hand surgeons, one of whom was instrumental in designing the tool, were evaluated for MMEs prescribed, opioid refills, patient emergency room visits, and patient readmissions within 30 days after discharge. Comparisons in this subgroup were made from 12 months before to 15 months after tool implementation.


      The mean system-wide compliance with the suggested opioid pill quantities and MMEs prescribed in all 4 specialties improved by less than 5%. In the subgroup of hand surgeons, 5 of whom championed tool use, prescribed MMEs decreased by 10% during each of the 4 quarters before launching the tool and contracted an additional 26% in the first quarter after tool implementation. Opioid refills held steady at 5%, and there were no emergency room visits or readmissions within 30 days after discharge in this patient subgroup.


      The prescribing tool had a negligible impact on system-wide compliance with suggested prescription opioid pill quantities and MMEs. In a small group of surgeons who championed the use of the tool, there was a significant and sustained decline in MMEs prescribed without adversely impacting patient refills, emergency room visits, or readmissions.

      Clinical relevance

      An electronic prescribing tool to assist surgeons in lowering opioid prescription pill quantities and MMEs may have a negligible impact on prescribing behavior in a multihospital health care system.

      Key words

      JHS Podcast

      November 1, 2022

      JHS Podcast Episode 80

      Dr. Graham interviews Dr. David Kalainov regarding his paper “Impact of an Electronic Health Record Pain Medication Prescribing Tool on Opioid Prescriptions for Postoperative Pain in Hand, Orthopedic, Plastic, and Spine Surgery Across a Health Care System”, which appears in the November 2022 issue of the Joiurnal of Hand Surgery.

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      November 1, 2022

      Perspectives - November 2022

      Listen to Dr. Jeffrey Stepan discuss the article “Impact of an Electronic Health Record Pain Medication Prescribing Tool on Opioid Prescriptions for Postoperative Pain in Hand, Orthopedic, Plastic, and Spine Surgery Across a Health Care System”, which appears in the November 2022 issue of the Journal of Hand Surgery.

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