Regence creates conversation guide to help patients talk to doctors about opioids

By Dr. Jim Polo, Medical Director of Behavioral Health
July 24, 2018
doc image

Here’s a common situation: You are talking with your doctor, who is recommending treatment – maybe an upcoming surgical procedure, even something less invasive like a tooth extraction.

Part of the follow-up includes a prescription for a painkiller. You’ve heard about the nation’s opioid crisis, and you wonder whether that’s risky. But do you know what to ask? Do you feel confident in getting the right information for you?

Regence can help.

We are doing our part to support the appropriate use of opioids while working hard to prevent opioid abuse. We’ve reduced prescriptions 22 percent, toward a goal of 25 percent by 2020. But we also want to empower our members to speak up and have meaningful conversations with their providers about these medications. That’s why we recently created a conversation guide that patients and their doctors can use to make sure they are on the same page about pain management.

This guide includes 10 questions – five that can start the conversation about the right course of pain treatment and whether opioids are appropriate, and five more if opioids are determined to be the best option.

Questions to start the conversation include things like, “Why do I need this medication – is it right for me?” and “Are there non-opioid alternatives that could help with pain relief?” Such questions are designed to draw out potential risks and broader thinking about pain relief.

If you and your doctor decide opioids are the best course, the next questions get to side effects, drug interactions and safe storage.

Regence understands the urgency of the opioid crisis in our communities. To learn more about these medications and how to use them safely, and what Regence is doing, please visit You can also download a copy of the conversation guide there.

Dr. Jim Polo is Behavioral Health Medical Director for Regence health plans.