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NOSM receives funding for virtual communities of practice

Posted on April 3, 2019
Image of Dr. Owen Prowse.

The office of Faculty Affairs and Continuing Education and Professional Development (FA and CEPD) at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) has succeeded in a grant application and received more than $500,000 to develop educational materials for primary care and specialist physicians on best practices in opioid prescribing. The grant application was a collaboration between leadership and faculty in the Clinical Sciences Division.

The project aims to increase recognition of the social, economic and geographic factors affecting patients in Northern Ontario, develop competence to appropriately prescribe opioids, as well as encourage physicians to draw on feedback and suggestions to evaluate their own opioid prescribing habits.

The most common reason for outpatient visits to primary care physicians in Northern Ontario is substance use disorder, according to data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). The North West and North East Local Health Integration Networks also have the first and second highest rates of patients being treated with opioid maintenance therapy patients per capita; the sixth and third highest rate of opioid patients per capita and the first and second highest rates of opioid related deaths in the province, according a November 2016 report from the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network (ODPRN).

“Opioid-related health problems are causing significant illness and death in Northern Ontario, and this has immediate relevance to physicians on both a professional and personal level,” said Dr. Janice Willett, Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Continuing Education and Professional Development at NOSM. “This project will provide physicians and other health-care providers with the tools to respond appropriately in their own practice setting, ultimately improving long-term health outcomes for their patients.”

Educational materials will include an online module aimed at increasing awareness about the link between the historical increase in prescribed opioids and the increase in opioid dependence, opioid use disorder and opioid-related deaths. The module will review the 2017 Canadian Recommendations for the use of opioids in chronic non-cancer pain, present data, discuss current gaps in treatment and review patient case scenarios.

The project will also establish virtual communities of practice using the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) platform for physicians and other health-care professionals to have facilitated discussions about implementing best practice guidelines and addressing barriers faced by providers and patients in rural and remote areas, with attention to cultural competence.

The project will be funded by Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). SUAP is a federal contributions program, delivered by Health Canada, that provides financial support to provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations and key stakeholders to strengthen responses to drug and substance use issues in Canada.

“When used properly, prescription opioids can be very helpful in managing pain in some patients. At the same time, we know that, as with all medications, opioids come with risks. Initiatives like this one provide health care professionals with objective, evidence-based information and resources on opioid prescribing to assist them in treating patients,” said the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health. “By bringing together researchers, health care professionals and other stakeholders to develop best practices in opioid prescribing, we can ensure that patients continue to have access to the medications they need, while addressing Canada’s opioid crisis.”