Collaboration Looks to Advance Safer Opioid Prescribing in Canada

Saegis and the University of Toronto partner to promote a program that helps Canadian physicians develop the knowledge and skills necessary for safe opioid prescribing.

Saegis, a new subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), is working with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine’s Continuing Professional Development Office to bring national attention to the Safer Opioid Prescribing Skills program.

Tailored to physicians, the program is comprised of a series of three webinars, which are followed by an in-person skills-development workshop. It was initially designed in 2012-2013 by the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community Medicine to address the educational gaps in chronic pain and opioid prescribing that existed in medical school and residency.

Participating physicians learn how to appropriately measure chronic pain in order to properly prescribe opioids. They are also introduced to cases of opioid prescribing in challenging situations, such as in cases of patients with mental illnesses, elderly patients, or those with a history of substance abuse.

CMPA, which provides medical-legal assistance and promotes safe medical care in Canada, launched Saegis in August in an effort to advance healthcare safety in the country. Tara Garcia, chief operating officer of Saegis, said opioid prescribing was a key area of focus when the group was formed. On this issue alone, CMPA handled a spate of medical-legal cases from 2010 to 2015 that involved allegations of patient harm related to opioid prescribing.

Upon learning of the University of Toronto program, Garcia said Saegis reached out to its director, Dr. Abhimanyu Sud. “We had a common objective,” she said. “We wanted to bring the program nationally to give more access to physicians across the country.”

So far, more than 600 physicians throughout Canada have completed the program, and Garcia said it has already made a difference in the lives of CMPA’s members.

“I think it increases the confidence of the physicians when they are prescribing and helping their patients,” she said. “It’s definitely an important piece of the puzzle to [solving] the overall opioid crisis.”

In a country that ranks second to the United States in the per capita consumption of prescription opioid use, Garcia said this collaboration not only helps stem the crisis’ impact on both patients and physicians but also allows CMPA to better serve its members.

“I think this is an excellent example of taking an initiative that’s happening in one part of the country and helping to bring it to other regions,” she said. “A really important part of our operating model as we move forward is making things accessible to CMPA members.”

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Thorne McFarlane

By Thorne McFarlane

Thorne is an assistant editor for Associations Now and a literature buff who loves a great story. Have something interesting to share? Send it his way. MORE

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