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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Says More Emergency Room Efforts Needed to Identify Opioid Overdose Risks

A substantial portion of emergency department patients are at risk for opioid overdose, and efforts should be made to identify those with opioid-related diagnoses to offer them naloxone kits and other interventions, Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers say in a new report.

Writing in Public Health Reports, the research team conducted a review of emergency department (ED) visits at a Boston hospital and used diagnosis codes to place patients into three risk categories: those who experienced opioid overdoses or poisoning; those with opioid dependence or misuse; and those who were prescribed opioids during their ED visit. Of the more than 96,000 patients who visited the ED during the two-year study period, 19.3 percent met the criteria for at least one risk category, the analysis showed. Patients in the two highest-risk categories were more likely to be non-Hispanic white and male, compared with all ED patients.

The authors said the use of diagnostic codes is a promising approach to identifying patients with opioid-related problems. In a companion paper in BMC Research Notes, the same research team found that a policy implemented at a large urban hospital in Boston in 2013 to offer naloxone rescue kits and overdose prevention and response education to patients in the ED at risk for opioid overdose was hampered, in part, by a “lack of consensus” on who should be given the overdose-reversing medication. That paper also cited logistical and workflow problems.

To read more about the study, go to: