Upstate New York Surgeons Work with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to Establish Post-Surgery Opiate Prescription Guidelines that Reduce Number of Unused Pills

leva doyle
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Upstate New York Surgeons Work with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to Establish Post-Surgery Opiate Prescription Guidelines that Reduce Number of Unused Pills

SYRACUSE, N.Y.    Surgeons from 18 upstate New York hospitals and health centers, including Oswego Health, St. Joseph’s Health and Upstate University Hospital (two sites), are collaborating with each other and with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to reduce the number of unnecessary opioid pills prescribed when patients are discharged from the hospital following any of 21 different surgical procedures. 


The goal is to lower the risk of opioid misuse by reducing the number of opiate medications prescribed through a collaborative approach that blends the experience of surgeons and their hospitals with the data analytics of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. The guidelines established by the surgeons themselves will help to ensure that patients can adequately control their pain in the postoperative period.


“We’re honored to play a convening role with our surgeon partners to help them identify best practices, establish prescribing guidelines and periodically review data we collect for them so they can analyze and share their experiences with one another,” said LouAnne Giangreco, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer for health care improvement at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “This approach helps us achieve our mission, which is to collaborate with doctors in order to improve care for our members and our communities.”


The surgical quality initiative on opioid prescriptions began in 2018 when surgeons and nurses from 18 hospitals got together with the health plan to address the problems of opioid dependency and abuse. The surgeons reviewed best practices and reached consensus on appropriate opioid levels to prescribe for patients who have undergone any of 21 different procedures, which range from more intensive total knee replacement surgery to incision-less surgery for bladder tumors.


“The idea was for the surgeons and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to develop some baseline data on those surgeries, and for the surgeons to set goals that move discharge prescriptions to the agreed-upon best practice levels over time,” said Giangreco. This month marks the beginning of the new measurement period when the health care providers will be able to analyze, compare and demonstrate improvement.

Participating hospitals with surgeon champions in the program include:


Utica/Rome/North Country Region

Bassett Medical Center

Samaritan Medical Center

A.O. Fox Hospital

St. Elizabeth Medical Center


Central New York Region

Oswego Health

St. Joseph’s Health

Upstate University Hospital (2 sites)


Western New York Region

Kaleida Health (2 sites)

Erie County Medical Center (ECMC)

United Memorial Medical Center (Batavia)


Finger Lakes Region

Clifton Springs Hospital

Highland Hospital

Newark-Wayne Community Hospital

Rochester General Hospital

Strong Memorial Hospital

Unity Hospital


Southern Tier Region

Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital

United Health Services Hospitals (1 site)


Surgeries that are part of the program include:


Total knee replacement                   

Lumbar laminectomy                                

Total hip replacement                               

Cervical arthroplasty/discectomy/fusion      

Lumbar microdiscectomy                          

Rotator cuff repair                                    


Total abdominal hysterectomy         

Breast reduction                             

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy          

Laparoscopic vaginal hysterectomy            

Inguinal hernia repair                               

Laparoscopic nephrectomy                        

Laparoscopic gastric bypass                      

Laparoscopic gastric sleeve                       

Carotid endarterectomy                   

Mitral valve replacement                            

VNUS closure (varicose vein treatment)                                   

Transurethral resection of the bladder tumor                                               

Endoscopic sinus surgery                          

Coronary artery bypass grafting