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Journal Article > Study
Barnett ML, Olenski AR, Jena AB. N Engl J Med. 2017;376:663-673.
The opioid epidemic is currently one of the most pressing patient safety challenges, as discussed in a recent Annual Perspective. High-risk prescribing practices by clinicians is one contributing factor in the surge in opioid use among patients. Prior research has shown that patients often receive opioids following low-risk procedures, and they frequently receive opioid prescriptions even after overdosing on these medications. This cohort study found wide variations in opioid prescribing practices among emergency departments, with some physicians prescribing opioids almost three times as often even after controlling for patient characteristics. Notably, patients who received opioids from a high-intensity prescriber were significantly more likely to continue using opioids 12 months later—indicating a possible connection between physician prescribing practices and subsequent opioid addiction. The study confirms that reducing variation in physician prescribing practices should be one component of an overall strategy to address opioid overuse.
Journal Article > Study
Are more experienced clinicians better able to tolerate uncertainty and manage risks? A vignette study of doctors in three NHS emergency departments in England.
Lawton R, Robinson O, Harrison R, Mason S, Conner M, Wilson B. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;28:382-388.
Risk aversion in clinical practice may lead to the ordering of unnecessary tests and procedures, a form of overuse that may pose harm to patients. Experienced clinicians may be more comfortable with uncertainty and risk than less experienced providers. In this cross-sectional study, researchers surveyed doctors working in three emergency departments to understand their level of experience and used vignettes to characterize their reactions to uncertainty and risk. They found a significant association between more clinical experience and less risk aversion as well as a significant association between more experience and greater ease with uncertainty. The authors caution that they cannot draw conclusions on how these findings impact patient safety. An accompanying editorial suggests that feedback is an important mechanism for improving confidence in clinical decision-making. A WebM&M commentary discussed risks related to overdiagnosis and medical overuse.