Provider Detailing: An Intervention to Decrease Prescription Opioid Deaths in Utah


Susan Cochella, MD, MPH, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine, 375 Chipeta Way, Suite A, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA.
Tel: 801-587-3460; Fax: 801-581 2771;


Background.  Utah undertook a multipronged effort to reverse an epidemic of deaths among patients taking prescription opioids. This article describes the provider detailing portion of the effort.

Methods.  Presentations highlighting six recommended prescribing practices were developed and presented to health care workers. Participants were encouraged to utilize the state prescription database and to complete a series of surveys assessing confidence and behavior changes at 0, 1, and 6 months post-presentation. Continuing medical education credits incentivized participation.

Results.  Utah's medication-related overdose deaths dropped 14.0% in 2008 compared with 2007 following program implementation. A total of 581 physicians and numerous nonphysician health care workers were reached during 46 presentations. Follow-up surveys regarding the degree of adoption of practice changes were completed by 366 participants at 0 months, 82 participants at 1 month, and 29 participants at 6 months. Combined results for all three evaluations showed that 60–80% of responding providers reported no longer prescribing long-acting opioids for acute pain or with sedatives; 50% noted using Utah's controlled substances database during patient care and utilizing lower starting doses and slower escalations; and 30–50% reported obtaining EKGs and sleep studies on appropriate patients, using patient education tools, and implementing Utah's prescribing guidelines.

Conclusions.  Provider detailing was associated with a decrease in Utah's prescription opioid death rate and improvements in provider self-reported prescribing behaviors. Other simultaneous interventions may have contributed to the decline in death rates. This intervention's effect was limited by short-term funding.