Background: Clinicians, governmental agencies, patients, and pharmaceutical companies all contribute to the United States' opioid epidemic. These same stakeholders can make meaningful contributions to resolve the epidemic by identifying ineffective habits and encouraging change. The purpose of this study was to determine if postoperative opioid prescribing practice variation exists in foot and ankle surgery. We also aimed to identify if demographic characteristics of podiatric foot and ankle surgeons were associated with their postoperative opioid prescribing practices. Methods: We administered an open, voluntary, anonymous, online questionnaire distributed on the internet via Qualtrics, an online survey platform. The questionnaire consisted of six foot and ankle surgery scenarios followed by a demographics section. We invited Podiatric foot and ankle surgeons practicing in the United States to complete the questionnaire via email from the American Podiatric Medical Association's membership list. Respondents selected the postoperative opioid(s) that they would prescribe at the time of surgery, as well as the dose, frequency, and number of "pills" (dosage units). We developed multiple linear regression models to identify associations between prescriber characteristics and two measures of opioid quantity: dosage units and MME. Results: Eight hundred and sixty podiatric foot and ankle surgeons completed the survey. The median number of dosage units never exceeded 30 regardless of the foot and ankle surgery. Years in practice correlated with reduction in opioid dosage units prescribed at the time of surgery. Conclusions: Postoperative opioid prescribing practice variation exists in foot and ankle surgery. In comparison to the orthopedic community, podiatric foot and ankle surgeons prescribe approximately 25% fewer opioids at the time of surgery than orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons. Further research is warranted to determine if additional education is needed for young surgeons.
Background: Given that excess opioid prescriptions contribute to the United States opioid epidemic and there are few national opioid prescribing guidelines for the management of acute pain, it is pertinent to determine if prescribers can sufficiently assess their own prescribing practice. The purpose of this study was to investigate podiatric surgeons’ ability to evaluate if their own opioid prescribing practice is less than, near, or above that of an “average” prescriber.
Methods: We administered a scenario-based, voluntary, anonymous, online questionnaire via Qualtrics which consisted of five surgery-based scenarios commonly performed by podiatric surgeons. Respondents were asked the quantity of opioids they would prescribe at the time of surgery. Respondents were also asked to rate their prescribing practice compared to the average (median) podiatric surgeons. We compared self-reported behavior to self-reported perception (“I prescribe less than average,” “I prescribed about average,” and “I prescribe more than average”). ANOVA was used for univariate analysis between the three groups. We used linear regression to adjust for confounders. Data restriction was used to account for restrictive state laws.
Results: One hundred fifteen podiatric surgeons completed the survey from in April 2020. Less than half of the time, respondents accurately identified their own category. Consequently, there were no statistically significant differences between podiatric surgeons who reported that they “prescribe less,” “prescribe about average,” and “prescribe more.” Paradoxically, there was a flip in scenario #5, whereas respondents who reported they “prescribe more” actually prescribed the least and respondents who believed that they “prescribe less” actually prescribed the most.
Conclusions: Cognitive bias, in the form of a novel effect, occurs in postoperative opioid prescribing practice; in the absence of procedure-specific guidelines or an objective standard, podiatric surgeons, more often than not, were unaware of how their own opioid prescribing practice measured up to other podiatric surgeons.