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HealthPartners pain program treats chronic pain while reducing use of opioids

Nearly 3.5 million fewer pills prescribed in one year


April 18, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – A new report shows how HealthPartners has reduced the use and misuse of opioid medications while providing treatment that is more effective for chronic pain. Since 2012, HealthPartners has implemented multiple initiatives at its hospitals, medical and dental clinics and health plan. They include:

  • Specialized pain clinics. HealthPartners has four clinics that address the multiple causes of pain in one location: physical, emotional, lack of sleep, physical activity, social factors and addiction.
  • Back pain. Treatment for back pain focuses on promoting activity, exercise and physical therapy rather than prescribing pain medication.
  • Checks to prevent doctor shopping. Patients who receive multiple prescriptions from multiple clinicians are referred to a program that limits care to one doctor, one pharmacy and one emergency department.
  • Dental work. Prescriptions for opioids are limited to three – five days for root canals, wisdom teeth removal, and other dental work that might require this type of pain management.
  • Lower setting in the electronic medical record. The automatic setting for opioid medication in the electronic medical record was lowered to 10 pills – half of the previous setting.

Fewer opioid pills prescribed

As a result of these programs, HealthPartners care group reduced the number of pills prescribed in a single year by more than 21 percent (3.4 million). HealthPartners care system includes seven hospitals, 55 primary care clinics, 22 urgent care locations and specialty practices in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. For HealthPartners health plan, the number of opioid prescriptions filled by members was reduced by 2.1 million pills in one year.

“The key to curbing the national addiction crisis it to avoid, whenever possible, providing opioids for acute and chronic pain,” said Bret Haake, MD, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Regions Hospital. “It’s more effective to promote physical activity and wellness, and to use non-opioid medications when needed”.

Read a report that summarizes the programs across HealthPartners organization. Learn more about HealthPartners pain program at

About HealthPartners

HealthPartners is the largest consumer-governed, non-profit health care organization in the nation with a mission to improve health and well-being in partnership with members, patients and the community. For more information, visit

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