WSHA, WSMA, HCA release initial results for Better Prescribing, Better Treatment for opioids

October 18, 2018

In late 2017, WSHA teamed up with the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) and the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) to launch a new program known as “Better Prescribing, Better Treatment.” The program uses evidence-based best practices and offers access to prescribing data to reduce opioid overprescribing to Medicaid patients. This week, we announced the initial results, which have been quite remarkable.

The program has managed to reduce opioid prescriptions exceeding new state Medicaid program prescribing guidelines by nearly 70 percent. It also reduced total Medicaid opioid prescriptions for acute (non-chronic) pain by nearly 30 percent. This means there are less opioids in the community to potentially be misused, saving more people from falling into a struggle with addiction.

The program uses a three-pronged approach to safe prescribing: encouraging compliance with a new opioid prescribing policy that establishes pill limits for all prescriptions for acute pain, allowing provider discretion to override pill limits if they feel it is in the best interest of their patients, and allowing providers to compare how their opioid prescribing practices compare to others in their specialty and health system.

Better Prescribing, Better Treatment is a component of the state’s opioid response plan, and it was conceived and designed by a joint opioid task force comprised WSHA and WSMA members. We then partnered with HCA to implement it. We have more than 20 health systems and groups working on the initiative, and the state is currently negotiating with partners to expand the program, which we hope will allow it to serve all patients, regardless of their insurance carriers. If your hospital is not enrolled but would like to be, please let me know.

Opioids have torn through our communities for too long, but programs like this offer hope and promise. By collaborating with our peers, we can generate ideas that work for hospitals, health systems, providers and patients to reach a goal that is in everyone’s best interest. We look forward to continuing this critical work, which we know truly makes a difference in Washington State.


Cassie Sauer
WSHA President & CEO


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