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Text Message System Useful for Monitoring Postoperative Opioid Use

TUESDAY, Feb. 23, 2021 -- A text message system can monitor postoperative opioid use and shows that many prescribed opioid tablets are unused, according to a case study published in the March issue of NEJM Catalyst.

Anish K. Agarwal, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues built, deployed, and tested an automated text messaging program for postoperative patient engagement.

The researchers sent an initial text message after surgery, and patients provided e-consent. A series of questions were sent on postoperative days 4, 7, 14, and 21. Questions were completed on self-reported pain intensity, the ability to manage pain, and use of prescription opioids; in addition, locations for safe disposal of opioids were provided. Text messages were sent to 2,444 adult patients during a 16-month period, of whom 47.2 percent provided e-consent. The proportion of patients responding to questions varied from a low of 69 percent on day 7 to a high of 95 percent on day 21. Among the respondents, 10,305 (61 percent) opioid tablets remained unused. For all procedure types, there was a decrease in the mean self-reported pain score within 21 days after surgery.

"Our system works as a quality improvement mechanism and a way for providers to see trends in patient-reported pain and opioid use following their surgeries," Agarwal said in a statement. "We can collect the data, analyze it, and inform future prescribing to predict and meet the needs of our patients going forward."

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Posted: February 2021

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