To combat the prescription opioid problem, St. Joseph’s Healthcare System in Paterson, NJ, has developed a new program that gives providers options they can use to effectively alleviate pain without resorting to highly addictive medication. Launched in January 2016 in the ED at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center (SJRMC), the Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) program utilizes protocols that primarily target five common conditions: renal colic, sciatica, headaches, musculoskeletal pain, and extremity fractures. Administrators say they have successfully treated more than 300 patients under the new program, and they see ALTO as a model other hospitals can duplicate.
- Among the alternative therapies called for in the ALTO program are trigger point injections, nitrous oxide, and ultrasound-guided nerve blocks.
- ALTO medications are specifically chosen because of how they affect the pain receptor sites for each different pain syndrome.
- While the primary goal of the program is to use alternatives to opioids whenever possible, another important underlying goal is to stop acute pain from becoming chronic.
- While ALTO therapies typically take a bit longer to deliver than prescribing opioids, administrators note that this has not adversely affected patient flow in the ED.