Aspen Mountain Medical Center Flipping the Script on Opioid Treatment and Pain Management

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Tessa Kelley explains the new protocol being used at Aspen Mountain Medical Center to manage patient pain without opioids.

You see or hear a report in the news nearly every day about the opioid crisis happening in America.

According to statistics compiled by the America Society of Addiction Medicine, opioid addiction has boosted the number of accidental deaths in the US and accounted for almost half of those deaths since 2015.

With 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015 alone, the medical community fights an uphill battle on two fronts.

One, federally-mandated regulations which make pain the fifth vital sign of assessing a person’s general health; and two, tying actual reimbursement to healthcare providers  related to how satisfied patients are with their pain control.

“The only thing that did was incentivize healthcare providers to prescribe a whole lot of pain medication that might not necessarily have been required,” said Tessa Kelley, RN, BSN and CNO at Aspen Mountain Medical Center in Rock Springs.

An operating room at Aspen Mountain Medical Center.

A Change will do you Good

These measures prompted Kelley to start researching better ways to treat injured patients without using opioids as the primary means of pain management.

“I watched it happen over my career in surgery,” she said. “We used to start by giving (patients) 10 or 15 Percocet, and then it was 20, and then it was 25, and then it was 30.”

Through extensive research both at home and abroad, Kelley, along with a team of anesthesia providers at Aspen Mountain Medical Center, have developed three clinical pain pathways that treat pain based on each person’s individual needs.

Three pathways to pain management offering opioid free or opioid sparing anesthesia techniques.

They can offer opioid free or opioid sparing anesthesia techniques while still achieving pain control through the form of regional blocks that numb the surgical area and medications that do not include opioids.

“We’ve seen amazing results with these protocols so far, and we want to let the public know they have a choice when it comes to the consumption of opioids for their pain management. Aspen Medical Center can help,” Kelley said.

Ever-Evolving Methods

Kelley says everything in healthcare at this point is evidence-based practice and process improvement. Because of that, there is no such thing as an airtight protocol.

“About every six months you’re going to have to re-evaluate it and change it with the current research,” she added. “It is never done, and it is constantly evolving.”

While this pain management protocol is not new in urban areas, it remains on the fringe of rural America where epidemics aren’t easily detected, but equally destructive.

Moving forward, Kelley said the best thing to do is eventually reach out to the subject matter experts like local drug and alcohol counseling clinics and getting their input as well.

“Aspen’s not into treating addiction medicine,” she concluded. “But how do we as healthcare providers not lend to the epidemic.”

“There’s room for improvement in our overall healthcare system, but again, its the small wins, taking one bite at a time. Its a big elephant.”

For more information about the three pathways and any other questions about pain management and your options, please email Aspen Medical Center at info@aspenmountainmc.com or call 307-352-8900.


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