E-learning educates medical students on safely prescribing opioids for chronic pain

Even in the era of the opioid epidemic and abuse, medical residents report feeling inadequately prepared to prescribe opioids responsibly to patients who medically need them. However, a safe opioid prescribing e-learning program effectively educates graduate students on safely prescribing opioids for chronic pain and is effective regardless of year in training, according to research from the University of California, Irvine.

Will Novey, Shalini Shah, Donald Tan, Maylin Martinez, Abhinav Grover, Bindu Swaroop, and Emilie Chow received a Resident/Fellow Travel Award for their abstract of the study, "Successful Implementation of a Novel E-learning Opioid Curriculum for Graduate Medical Education Housestaff: The Early Phase Outcome of an Internal Medicine Residency Curriculum E-Learning Project," which will be presented on Thursday, November 14, 2019, during the 18th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting in New Orleans, LA.

Traditional learning methods such as formal didactic education and simulation can be difficult for residents to incorporate into their intensive schedules. Additionally, resident education has historically been textbook based and may not incorporate the latest guidelines, state regulations, and institutional preferences. E-learning, which has been proven effective in other areas of medical education, can provide a more manageable option as well as valuable learner data that can be used to refine and enhance the education experience for each learner.

Novey and colleagues created an e-learning curriculum based on a thorough review of opioid-prescribing literature and the 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain and offered it to residents through the University of California's online learning management system. To determine each resident's learning needs, the researchers administered a 60-question pretest that assigned a certain safety score and corresponding e-learning modules for the resident to complete.

Post-test results showed significant overall improvement in safety scores (62.5% versus 76.2%) as well as improvement in knowledge of morphine milligram equivalents (42.1% versus 66.1%), naloxone (71.0% versus 80.0%), and urine toxicology and prescription drug monitoring programs (56.1% versus 73.3%).

"Addressing the opioid epidemic remains to be a daunting challenge for the US healthcare system," the authors wrote. "An online learning platform can serve as a validated, effective means to educating GME housestaff on safe opioid prescribing. UCI is one of the first GME programs in the country to institute an opioid learning curriculum for all housestaff, institution-wide."

The 18th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting will be held November 14–16, 2019, in New Orleans, LA. The conference brings together national and international experts in acute pain medicine to offer translational and clinical information that pain practitioners can implement directly in practice.

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