Opioid and Naloxone Prescribing Following Insertion of Prompts in the Electronic Health Record to Encourage Compliance With California State Opioid Law


Importance: Opioid addiction or dependency is a serious crisis in the US that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The State of California passed Assembly Bill (AB) 2760 in 2018 that mandates the coprescription of naloxone and opioids for patients with a high overdose risk.

Objective: To assess whether the AB 2760–based electronic prompts were associated with increased naloxone orders for opioid users and reduced opioid prescribing when integrated into the practitioner workflow.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study used interrupted time series mixed models to evaluate data obtained from the regional integrated health care system Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2019. Clinician participants were continuously employed at KPSC during the study period and ordered an opioid analgesic for eligible patients in 2018. Patient participants were KPSC members aged 18 years or older who received an opioid analgesic prescription during the study period. A series of AB 2760–based electronic prompts were integrated into the KPSC electronic health record system on December 27, 2018. The prompts are triggered or activated when 1 or more opioid prescribing conditions, defined in the AB 2760, are met at outpatient visits. Data were analyzed from January 8, 2021, to September 15, 2021.

Exposures: Assembly Bill 2760–based electronic prompts for outpatient opioid prescriptions in the electronic health record system.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcomes were changes in outpatient naloxone order rates among patients who were prescribed opioids and changes in outpatient opioid prescribing rates. Secondary outcomes were total morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) ordered per prescriber-month, prompts-targeted objectives, and unintended consequences. Risk for opioid abuse among 3 types of patients was also assessed.

Results: The 6515 eligible clinicians (mean [SD] age, 45.9 [9.43] years; 3604 men [55.3%]) included in the study served 500 711 unique patients in 1 903 289 outpatient encounters (mean [SD] age, 60.4 [15.67] years; 1 121 004 women [58.9%]) in which an opioid analgesic was prescribed. Naloxone order rate increased from 2.0% in December 2018 to 13.2% in January 2019 and then continued to increase to 27.1% in December 2019. Outpatient opioid prescribing rates decreased by 15.1% (rate ratio [RR], 0.85; 95% CI, 0.83-0.87) per prescriber-month when the electronic prompts were implemented. The postimplementation trend increased by 0.7% per prescriber-month (RR, 1.01; 95% CI, 1.01-1.01); the overall trend was still decreasing. The total MMEs per prescriber-month decreased by 7.8% (RR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.89-0.96) after implementation of the prompts. The postimplementation trend tapered off. Other safe opioid prescribing measures also improved after implementation (decreases in concomitant muscle relaxants orders [RR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.89-1.00], initial [RR, 0.86; 0.83-0.89] and renewal [RR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.62-0.69] opioid orders, and long-term high-dose orders [RR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.94-0.98]).

Conclusions and Relevance: This study found an association between implementation of AB 2760–based prompts and increased naloxone order rate; improved opioid prescribing measures (ie, decreased concomitant muscle relaxants orders, initial and renewal opioid orders, and long-term high-dose orders), except monthly median MMEs; and reduced opioid prescribing. The findings suggest that opioid overdose risks can be mitigated by encouraging safe prescribing habits.

A press release for this study can be found here. The full study is available in JAMA Network Open.