Ochsner Health System has been awarded a $1.6 million federal grant to be used over a four-year period aimed at helping health care providers safely manage non-cancer-related chronic pain across south Louisiana.

Louisiana is in the top 10 states for both the highest opioid prescribing rates and cause of death associated with the pain medication.

The National Institutes of Health grant is going to Ochsner's Opioid Treatment and Recovery through Safe Pain Management Program. The program is aimed at improving the prescribing system and providing solutions that would avoid overprescribing of opioid-related medications while providing more pain management resources to patients.

The four-year research study through the NIH grant will build on solutions Ochsner created to better manage patients and their pain while mitigating risk. It will also more closely examine the evolving role of technology, care and opioid-prescribing behaviors.

Efforts so far have included a task force with representation from multiple departments; programs to more appropriately manage pain and designed to restore a patient’s function; and a "Gateway" platform integrated with Ochsner’s electronic medical records system and the state prescription drug monitoring program so physicians and pharmacists are better informed about patients' prescription histories outside of the system.

“Opioid prescription drug abuse has been a major public concern in the U.S. for many years with increasing death rates due to fatal overdoses,” said Dr. Eboni Price-Haywood, director of the Ochsner Center for Outcomes and Health Services Research. “We have reached a critical point in health care where we must change the way we deliver care to patients who suffer from non-cancer chronic pain.”

The project is funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and is being conducted in collaboration with Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Price-Haywood is the principal investigator.