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ER research finds no link between patient satisfaction, receipt of opiates

March 28, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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New research on patient satisfaction with emergency medical services may ease pressure that some physicians feel to prescribe opiate medications in the emergency setting.

An analysis of patient satisfaction surveys, published online this week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found no relationship between patient satisfaction and the receipt of opiate analgesics. Other factors, including increasing age and male gender, were more closely associated with patient satisfaction with emergency care.

“The lack of connection between painkillers and patient satisfaction is frankly the opposite of what we expected to find,” said lead author Taylor Schwartz of Brown University's Alpert Medical School. “Our research shows that emergency physicians can administer painkillers, including opiates, based on clinical and patient factors without concern for the effect on patient satisfaction scores.”

This finding is seen as critical because in many hospital emergency departments, physician compensation is tied to patient satisfaction scores, and therefore doctors' perceptions about patients' reaction to pain might influence their medication decision-making.

The research was based on a review of patient surveys and electronic medical records for more than 4,700 patients who had received services at two hospitals. Just under half of those patients received analgesic medications while in the emergency department, and in around 61% of those cases the medications were opiates.

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