Emergency medicine experts lead national effort to reduce harm from opioids

Dr. Arjun Venkatesh
Dr. Arjun Venkatesh

Yale emergency physicians Dr. Arjun Venkatesh and Dr. Kathryn Hawk are lead investigators for a $1.4 million initiative to disseminate best practices and implement evidence-based interventions in the Emergency Department to reduce harm from opioids. The grant supports a unique collaboration between Yale School of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the Addiction Policy Forum.

Emergency physicians are often the first to treat patients suffering harm from opioid use, such as overdoses. Yet many emergency departments (EDs) lack access to resources to improve outcomes for patients. To address this issue, the three-year grant will fund the creation of an Opioid Initiative for dissemination through the Emergency Quality Network (E-QUAL), a national quality-improvement network of emergency departments, co-led by Venkatesh and launched through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative.

The Emergency Quality Network includes over a 1,000 Emergency Departments from across the United States, and we are excited to leverage this successful platform to combat the biggest epidemic facing the nation today,” said Venkatesh.

With support from the Addiction Policy Forum, the initiative will: recruit emergency departments nationwide to collaborate on opioid-focused interventions; develop a best-practice toolkit based on available evidence; collect data on quality of care; assess the current state of ED and hospital care; and study the effectiveness of engaging EDs in quality improvement efforts.

The CDC recently announced a 30-percent increase in emergency room visits for opioid overdoses between July 2016 and September 2017. As the numbers continue to grow, it is vital we work together to develop evidence-based methods and practices to assist emergency departments as they respond to overdoses and the increasing number of patients struggling with a substance use disorder,” said Addiction Policy Forum’s president and CEO Jessica Hulsey Nickel. “We fully support this initiative and are dedicated to working collaboratively to address addiction in our healthcare system.”

At the end of the grant period, the Yale team and its collaborators anticipate delivering a free, online quality-improvement toolkit for EDs with proven results.

Venkatesh, the principal investigator, is assistant professor of emergency medicine and the director of performance improvement in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Yale School of Medicine and scientist at the Yale New Haven Hospital Centers for Outcomes Research and Evaluation. Hawk, co-principal investigator, is assistant professor of emergency medicine and a NIDA K12 Drug Use, Addiction, and HIV research scholar.