WCF Mutual Insurance and Mitchell Release Study on the Impact of Opioid Guidelines-Based Program on Opioid Prescribing in Utah, Showing a Reduction of 13,000 Opioid Pills Dispensed to Injured Workers

SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#insuranceWCF Mutual Insurance Company, an innovative insurance provider with nationally offered products and services, and Mitchell, a leading provider of technology, connectivity and information solutions to the Property and Casualty (P&C) claims and Collision Repair industries, recently published a study about the use of opioids by injured workers in workers’ compensation claims in Utah. The results of the study are especially significant for Utah, a state that ranked seventh in drug poisoning deaths1 between 2013 and 2015 and has been in the top 10 states for overdoses1 in the United States for the past 10 years.

The study, entitled “Implementation of an Opioid Guideline Impacts on Opioid Prescriptions, Adverse Outcomes, and an Association with a State Opioid-Related Fatalities,” is published in the Journal of Occupational and Environment Medicine.

Among the many findings about opioid use in Utah among injured workers, the study found that the number of acute claims prescribed opioids dropped by more than 50 percent after implementation of the 18-month program. This decrease represented more than 13,000 fewer opioid pills dispensed to injured workers.

The study of WCF claimants is authored by WCF Insurance representatives alongside Mitchell’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Mitch Freeman, Pharm.D, and Senior Director of Information Technology, Roger Kartchner. The study examined the impact of implementing an evidence-based, guidelines-based program on opioid use and abuse in Utah. Among the factors studied were the number of opioid pills prescribed, the time length of prescriptions, and outcomes from the changes implemented by WCF and Mitchell.

Opioids in Utah Before Program Implementation

The opioid crisis is apparent in every state, but Utah is particularly affected. Utah was seventh in the United States for drug poisoning deaths between 2013 and 2015.1 An average of 20.3 people die from prescription opioid overdoses per 100,000 population.1 In 2014, however, opioids were prescribed to nearly one-third of Utah adults.1 Workers’ compensation claims were found to be prominent places where people received opioids, which prompted the initiation of WCF and Mitchell’s opioid protocol program.

Study Results

Study results show2 that the number of WCF claims with an opioid prescription decreased by 50.2 percent—from 3,061 to 1,665, or from 11.8 percent of claims to 5.9 percent. This equates to a 56.4 percent reduction of opioid pills dispensed versus prescribed, a total of more than 13,000 opioid pills.

The decrease of 13,000 pills equated to approximately 65,502 mg in MED.

Additionally, the number of days’ supply prescribed for first-fill opioids, when including denials and partial fills from post-intervention, dropped from 6.1 to 5.7 days (seven percent).

The number of post-intervention claims requiring a second opioid fill was 528—a 60.9 percent decrease from pre-intervention. The researchers suggest this may indicate that shortened duration does not adversely affect recovery, since the injured workers did not require a refill.

Interestingly, the total number of prescriptions, including non-opioid prescriptions, across all claims fell by 30.8 percent, from 18,665 to 12,909.

In 2017, Utah implemented policies related to prescribing opioids and monitoring their use. After these policies and the WCF and Mitchell program were implemented in 2017, Utah saw a 19.8 percent decrease in opioid-related fatalities.3

About the Study

According to the study, “The opioid program’s goals were to increase adherence to evidence-based recommendations regarding opioid prescriptions, and ultimately to decrease the adverse effects that may result from improper opioid usage. This study’s objective was to analyze and report on the evidence of efficacy of this program on outcome measures.”

The study measured the impact of a newly implemented opioid guidelines program on the first fill of an opioid prescription for acute pain claims by injured workers covered by WCF in Utah. The study tracked these acute pain claims over 36 months, starting on March 1, 2017 (18 months before and 18 months after intervention).

The program followed the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s (ACOEM) peer-reviewed opioid guidelines and required all first-fill opioid prescriptions for acute injuries to go through utilization review, ensuring that these prescriptions complied with the ACOEM opioid guidelines.

WCF and Mitchell engaged in an extensive education program for providers, patients and other stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition into the program.

About Mitchell International

Headquartered in San Diego, California, Mitchell International, Inc. delivers smart technology solutions that simplify and accelerate claims handling, repair processes and pharmacy transactions, driving more accurate, consistent and cost-effective resolutions. Mitchell integrates deep industry expertise into its workflow solutions, providing unparalleled access to data, advanced analytics and decision support tools. Mitchell’s comprehensive solution portfolio and robust SaaS infrastructure connect its customers in ways that enable tens of millions of electronic transactions to be processed each month for more than 300 insurance providers, over 65,000 pharmacies and 30,000 collision repair facilities, as well as countless other Property & Casualty industry supply partners across the Americas and Europe. For more information, please visit mitchell.com.

About WCF Mutual Insurance Company

WCF Mutual Insurance Company (WCF) is an innovative insurance provider with nationally offered products and services. WCF is committed to providing excellent customer service, building strong business partnerships, keeping workers safe, and maintaining aggressive cost management. To better serve multistate customers, WCF acquired WCF National Insurance Company in 1998 to write workers’ compensation outside Utah. Today, WCF National Insurance Company is licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. WCF has extensive experience, knowledge, and resources in many states and is an excellent resource on multistate or single state workers’ compensation. Its headquarters are in Sandy, Utah, with five claims offices across the western U.S. in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, and Nevada. With a national scope built on personalized local service, WCF’s mission is to provide an excellent insurance experience for our customers and stakeholders. For more information, please visit wcf.com.

1 “Opioid Overdoses.” Prescription Drug Overdoses | Utah Violence & Injury Prevention Program, Utah Department of Health, http://health.utah.gov/vipp/topics/prescription-drug-overdoses/.

2 Phillips, Andrew L., et al. “Implementation of an Opioid Guideline Impacts on Opioid Prescriptions, Adverse Outcomes, and an Association with a State Opioid-Related Fatalities.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, vol. 61, no. 8, Aug. 2019, pp. 653–658., doi:10.1097/jom.0000000000001640.

3 “Heroin and Prescription Opioid Overdose Deaths Decline in Utah.” Utah Department of Health, Utah Department of Health, 1 Oct. 2018, https://health.utah.gov/featured-news/heroin-and-prescription-opioid-overdose-deaths-decline-in-utah.


Joy Scott

President & CEO, Scott Public Relations



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