Reducing Opioids Not Associated with Lower Patient Satisfaction Scores, Kaiser Permanente Study Finds

Originally Published by Kaiser Permanente.

A Kaiser Permanente study of nearly 2,500 patients who used high doses of opioids for at least six months showed that reducing their opioid use did not lower their satisfaction with care. The study, “Satisfaction With Care After Reducing Opioids for Chronic Pain,” was published today in The American Journal of Managed Care.


“Physicians are often concerned they will receive lower satisfaction scores if they reduce opioids for patients who are accustomed to high opioid doses to manage chronic pain,” said the study’s lead author, Adam L. Sharp, MD, MS, of Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. “This study showed that following current recommendations and reducing opioids for chronic pain did not result in lower satisfaction scores.”

Opioid use has been a major health concern in the U.S. Opioid use increased in the United States by 300 percent from 1997 to 2010, and overdose deaths increased 200 percent from 2000 to 2014. An in-depth analysis of U.S. data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March showed that drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016 and nearly two-thirds of those deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid.

But reducing opioids for patients who have been prescribed the medications for many years to manage chronic pain can be challenging for physicians. One concern is reduced patient satisfaction. Researchers tracked patient encounters from 2009 to 2014 among Kaiser Permanente members in Southern California. They included 2,492 encounters with patients prescribed high doses of opioids for at least six consecutive months for chronic pain.

The study compared patient satisfaction scores between those whose dose was reduced to the recommended level for at least 30 days following the encounter on which the satisfaction score was linked and those without such a reduction. It found:

  • Most encounters resulting in an opioid dose reduction maintained favorable overall satisfaction (86.4 percent).
  • Reducing opioid doses for chronic pain was not associated with unfavorable patient satisfaction scores.
  • The odds of a favorable satisfaction rating were higher when opioids were reduced by a patient’s regular primary care physician versus a different physician.

“If you are physician, you should do the right thing and you should feel comfortable you will not receive lower patient satisfaction scores. Our results should reassure physicians and help promote use of recommended guidelines,” Dr. Sharp said. “Even if you are in the small subset of physicians reducing opioids for people who are not your regular patients, there is still only small difference in overall patient satisfaction.”

Dr. Sharp, who is an emergency room physician as well as a researcher, said there is a message for patients as well: “Even if you have been on opioids for years, the recommendations have changed.”

He noted that physicians have learned that the high doses previously used were more likely to hurt patients than to help them with their pain.

“You should be reassured that your physician wants to follow guidelines designed to improve your health and well-being,” he said. “At times, your doctor may be helping you most by prescribing less.”

Latest News

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock

11 Mayors Team Up To Launch New Local Reparations Efforts, Establish Framework for a National Reparations Program

Following an announcement in March that city officials in Evanston, Illinois would begin paying qualifying city residents up to $25,000 in reparations for use on property payments and home repair, and fresh off the government’s announcement of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday, mayors in 11 additional U.S. cities have announced…

executive boardroom

Black Corporate Board Membership Grew by 32% in the Last Year, but Major Gaps Still Exist

The murder of George Floyd galvanized the need for racial reform and equity in the U.S., and boards have been listening. Data from the consulting firm ISS Corporate Solutions reveals that between July 2020 and May 2021, 32% of individuals newly appointed to the corporate boards within the country’s largest…

Juneteenth National Independence Day Act bill signing

House Passes — and Biden Signs — New Bill To Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday, one day after the Senate unanimously voted for its passage. President Biden quickly signed the bill into law on June 17, making this year’s Juneteenth the first national recognition of Black Independence Day in the United…

LGBTQ protection in schools

US Education Department Issues Statement Confirming Title IX Protects LGBTQ Students Against Discrimination

Following an executive order from President Joe Biden directing federal agencies to defend LGBTQ students against discrimination, the Education Department has issued an official statement saying that Title IX does indeed ensure equal protection for LGBTQ students under federal law. Jo Yurcaba of NBC News reported that the Department of…

Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Texas Governor Approves Bill Banning Discussions of Race and Racism Within State’s Schools

Texas lawmakers continue to astound with the number of racist, transphobic laws they are willing to try to write into law.  In the last few months alone, we’ve seen Texas lawmakers draft legislation that would penalize parents who support and help their transgender children access gender-affirming care with jail time…

Cigna building

Cigna and New York Life Expand Eligibility for ‘Brave of Heart Fund’ Grants Supporting Families of Healthcare Workers Who Lost Their Lives in the Fight Against COVID-19

Originally published at cigna.com. Cigna ranked No. 33 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   On June 17, the foundations of New York Life and Cigna announced that the Brave of Heart Fund, which provides monetary grants to the families of heroic health care workers…