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Using Patient-Reported Data to Reduce Opioid Use in Dental Patients

Significance and Potential Impact

Actively tracking patient-reported symptoms should decrease the number of patients who are prescribed opioids after surgery upon discharge, as well as the strength of the opioid and length of time they are prescribed.

Harnessing the power of patient-reported data using health IT.

Medical providers are increasingly using PRO data collected via mobile health applications for patient care; however, use of PRO data is largely unexplored in dentistry.

Dentists often preemptively prescribe opioids when the use of non-opiate medications may be more appropriate. Post-op pain generally begins when the patient has returned home and anesthesia from the dental surgery wears off, making pain levels difficult to actively assess and manage. Typically, individuals experience post-op pain for only 3 days, leaving many patients with leftover pills. These remaining pills are a potential source of drug diversion—the transfer of a legally prescribed controlled substance from the individual for whom it was prescribed to another person for any illicit use—and thus a potential contributor to the opioid crisis.

“Patient self-reporting is important for comprehensive pain assessment given pain’s subjective and multi-dimensional nature.”
- Dr. Elsbeth Kalenderian

Dr. Elsbeth Kalenderian, of the University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry and Harvard School of Dental Medicine, with Dr. Muhammad Walji, from the School of Dentistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, are leading a team of researchers to study whether pain intensity data collected from patients after dental procedures can help dental providers track patients’ pain more effectively in real time and modify prescription use. Through a user-centered design process, the team is conducting usability testing and workflow analyses with providers and patients to adapt and customize the user interface of an existing mobile health platform called FollowApp.Care. Using a cluster-randomized experimental study, the team will then evaluate the impact of using mobile health technology on patients’ post-op pain experiences and oral health outcomes, as well as provider acceptance of it and its impact on provider performance.

Research Details