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Taking on the antibiotic and opioid crises with the prescription pad

July 23, 2018

By Jennifer Lee

Giving doctors a clear sense of what their prescribing habits are can have an effect on the quality of care patients receive. A new grant led by Dr. Noah Ivers out of the WCH Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care will support the evaluation of feedback given to thousands of Ontario doctors on their current antibiotic and opioid prescribing practices.

By partnering with scientists at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and a range of other experts, as well as with provincial stakeholders like Public Health Ontario and Health Quality Ontario, the team at Women’s College Hospital will test out different approaches to find the best ways of boosting patient care and outcomes.

Part of the goal is to address the current opioid crisis by giving doctors more support where it’s needed to safely manage high-risk prescriptions. Although the number of opioids dispensed in Canada has dropped by 4.9 per cent, evidence shows that prescriptions for these drugs have increased by 6.8 per cent. Six of these drugs in particular – hydromorphone, morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone, codeine and tramadol – account for 96 per cent of all drugs prescribed in this class.

Evidence also shows that right now on average, Canadian healthcare providers prescribe 33 per cent more antibiotics compared to European counterparts in countries like the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. In fact, in three out of five cases, prescriptions are written for inappropriate diagnoses like the common cold across all OECD countries. 

“We are thrilled to win this highly competitive award from the CIHR’s Strategy for Patient Oriented Research and to work with our partners to implement strategies that try to make health care more patient-centred and more evidence-based,” says Dr. Noah Ivers, innovation fellow at WIHV. “The misuse of opioids and antibiotics has led to current and emerging public health crises and as a family doctor myself, I know we need more resources to help front-line providers achieve population health goals. With this applied health research program, we’ll try to address these crises and learn more about how to prevent the next ones.”

The project is set to roll out over the next four years with support from the Canadian Institute of Health Research’s SPOR Innovative Clinical Trials (iCT), which emphasizes collaboration between patients, decision makers and stakeholders. When the project is done, the team hopes to move the dial on doctors playing a vital role on driving large scale improvements inside healthcare.

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