discoveries magazine

Pain Points

To help address the nation’s opioid crisis, Cedars-Sinai is investigating the best way to discuss these highly addictive drugs with chronic pain patients.


Illustration: Iker Ayestaran        

Opioid overdoses claimed some 33,000 lives in the U.S. in 2015. Opioid-related deaths have quadrupled since 1999, driven partly by overuse of prescription pain relievers.

"Our study will test whether we can use electronic health records to disrupt how pain treatments are discussed and managed," says Brennan M. Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai. Most opioid use studies rely on prescription claims data. The Cedars-Sinai project is different because it also will use patient feedback, which is critical for successful management of chronic pain.

Working with patients, advocates, addiction specialists, and primary care providers, Spiegel’s team will compare the effectiveness of two established communication strategies used by doctors who treat chronic pain. Some patients will receive educational material prior to office visits, while computer alerts will prompt doctors to speak with other patients before renewing prescriptions.