"Treatment of pain is an essential responsibility of emergency practitioners," Weiner wrote in this month's AEM report. "However, many studies have demonstrated that pain is poorly controlled in the ED and for patients discharged from the ED with a painful condition."
The problem has been especially troublesome for those physicians in the ED who are seeing these patients for the first time. And sometimes, the situation doesn't seem clear-cut, Weiner says.
"You could be going to see your primary care doctor; you might be going to your orthopedic surgeon; you might be seeing a couple of residents; and you could easily have four or more prescriptions and more providers and get them legitimately," he says.
A flurry of abstracts of academic papers released last week at the American College of Emergency Physicians conference in Seattle, show the importance of electronic medical records to track drug-seeking patients and what's more, to get them help.
One of those successful programs is being developed in San Diego. There, University of California San Diego researchers found that patients who made more than two ED visits for alcohol, substance abuse, or psychiatric problems "were identified and flagged by electronic medical records, and placed in non-medical detox programs."