A coalition of physicians and medical providers has questioned whether Medicare’s patient satisfaction surveys indirectly encourage physicians to prescribe opioids to help their patients with pain problems.

The New York Times reports that coalition participants

…filed a petition Wednesday with the federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid, the government health programs for the elderly, disabled and poor. The letter asks that officials eliminate certain pain-related questions from patient-satisfaction questionnaires, such as: “During this hospital stay, how often was your pain well controlled?”

The groups argue that such questions inadvertently encourage aggressive use of painkillers to maintain high patient-satisfaction metrics.

“Aggressive management of pain should not be equated with quality health care as it can result in unhelpful and unsafe treatment,” states the petition, which calls on the government to release a proposal for a new questionnaire within 90 days.

Last week a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would eliminate the connection between pain survey questions and the payment rates hospitals receive from Medicare.

Prescription Medication Spilling From an Open Medicine BottleThe subject was among a number of issues providers raised addressing ways that some formal practices may indirectly encourage opioid use and abuse.

NAUH has long expressed concern about the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey Medicare uses to evaluate the performance of hospitals.

To learn more about how providers are urging lawmakers to fight opioid abuse, see this New York Times article.