Cross-Pollinating with Purpose

Cross-Pollinating with Purpose 

By Laura Brown

If you follow the Center for Health Communication on social media, you’ve probably heard by now that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has awarded the Center funding to promote the web-based prescription monitoring program to health care providers and prescribers. Faculty members from five different University of Texas Colleges and Schools are working together on the project, and the collaborative processes necessary for addressing the opioid crisis don’t end there.

This semester, we’re tackling this public health issue with the second year PharmD students in the Pharmacy Professional Communications course. The research tells us that most patients would feel okay about pharmacists talking to them about opioid use and abuse. The research also tells us that despite believing conversations with patients about opioid use and abuse are of utmost importance, and believing that they have adequate communication skills to begin these conversations, pharmacists still face challenges in initiating these conversations. In fact, pharmacists report that they sometimes avoid talking about opioid use and abuse with patients. Why? One reason is that the necessary patient information is not readily available or accessible to pharmacists.

The prescription monitoring program (PMP) addresses the challenge of not having patient information readily accessible; The Texas PMP keeps track of prescription data for all Schedule II, III, IV, and V controlled substances. During class discussion, PharmD students mentioned that they had seen their supervisors and colleagues utilize the PMP when processing a patient’s opioid prescription. Data stored in the PMP helps pharmacists make decisions about how to talk with patients who are picking up painkillers and other drugs. This particular class discussion also brought to light some unexpected uses, and perhaps unintended consequences, of pharmacists utilizing the PMP. Although anecdotes never tell the complete story, they can offer clues to researchers who are working on similar health issues from different angles. This spontaneous cross-pollination is just one of the benefits of working with a large and growing team of researchers, educators, and students. 

Prescription drug photo info: Creative Commons BipHoo Company |FDA targets "rogue" online pharmacies illegally selling opioids|Image Source: |Taken 9/27/2017