PA Foundation Initiatives Promote Opioid Misuse Prevention Through Education

AAOA’s “Allies in Action” series continues to highlight how our partners are raising awareness and providing education to combat prescription opioid misuse and abuse.

Today’s featured partner, the PA Foundation, is the charitable arm of the American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA), which represents a profession of more than 159,000 PAs across all medical and surgical specialties in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and the uniformed services. The Foundation’s mission is to empower PAs to improve health through philanthropy and service.

From 2006 to 2012, the U.S. saw a steady increase in opioid prescriptions — peaking in 2012 at 81.3 prescriptions per 100 patients. While prescriptions have decreased since that time, culminating in 43.3 prescriptions per 100 patients in 2020, some counties across the country maintain prescription rates that are nine times higher than the average.

To help address the prescription opioid epidemic and reverse the harmful trend of opioid misuse, the PA Foundation has developed several impactful initiatives aimed at raising awareness among PAs through educational tools which they can use to convey important information to their patients.

Educational Tools: Preventing Prescription Opioid Misuse

The PA Foundation developed a program for PA students, Preventing Prescription Opioid Misuse (PPOM), which prepares future prescribers to help prevent prescription opioid misuse through three mechanisms:

  • Overcoming clinical bias;
  • Navigating difficult conversations with patients; and,
  • Educating patients on risks and responsibilities of opioid use.

The program includes a hub of supplemental resources, including educational presentations and quizzes developed by the PA Foundation as well as critical information from other trusted sources.

Educational Presentations

The PPOM resource page offers four recorded presentations covering different elements of safe opioid prescribing. The program gives an overview of the opioid epidemic, provides tips on making treatment decisions, addresses clinical cognitive bias and portrays important patient-provider conversations.

Skills Practice and Additional Resources

To augment the educational resources, the PPOM module encourages PAs and PA students to test their knowledge using additional tools. With the Pathways to Safer Opioid Use simulation, developed by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, future prescribers can learn and practice safe prescribing techniques through roleplaying scenarios and prepare for tough situations they may encounter regarding prescription opioids and substance use disorders (SUD).

PAs and PA students can also take quizzes on their knowledge of the opioid epidemic and common names for prescription opioids.

Finally, the program provides participants with additional resources from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, American Society of Addiction Medicine and National Institute on Drug Abuse, offering information ranging from SUD stigma mitigation to tips on transitioning patients away from opioid therapy.

Other Educational Programs on Preventing Prescription Opioid Misuse

In addition to the original Preventing Prescription Opioid Misuse program, the PA Foundation has developed two additional modules focused on specific aspects of PPOM, also targeted to PA students:

Like the PPOM program, each of these programs includes a suite of online resources available to PAs and PA students, featuring videos, podcast episodes, interactive modules, downloadable infographics and more.

Pledge To Pause: Strengthening Patient-Provider Communication

The PA Foundation previously partnered with AAOA to develop Pledge to Pause, an initiative to increase patient education around prescriptions opioids. By taking the pledge to pause before prescribing, Pledge to Pause encourages PA students around the country — future prescribers — to raise awareness about the rights, risks and responsibilities of prescription opioid use with patients.

The Pledge to Pause initiative not only prepares prescribers to educate individuals on the safe storage and disposal of unused medications, but also gives PAs the opportunity to offer alternative treatment options and better understand the medical needs of each patient.

Thanks to the resources from the PA Foundation, current and future medical professionals are better equipped to tackle the opioid epidemic through patient education. Their work supports AAOA in our mission to raise awareness around the rights, risks and responsibilities of prescription opioids. For more information, check out AAOA’s consumer resources and the AAOA-PA Foundation Pledge to Pause initiative.