Educating Together, Improving Together:
Harmonizing Interprofessional Approaches to Address the Opioid Epidemic
A Special Publication from the National Academy of Medicine
The United States is in the midst of an urgent and complex opioid crisis. To address how education and training can more effectively respond to this crisis, we must have a better understanding of problems in practice—or professional practice gaps—for health professionals and teams in practice. A coordinated response requires identifying and addressing professional practice gaps (PPGs) related to pain management, opioid use disorder (OUD), and other substance use disorder (SUD) care, as well as integrating evidence-based best practices into health professional education and training curricula across the continuum from undergraduate training into post-graduate continuing education This Special Publication presents two information-gathering efforts to assess persisting PPGs pertaining to pain management and SUD care and to better understand the current health professional education environment: the first is a comprehensive literature review, and the second is a survey of the regulatory landscape.
The results underscore the need to collaboratively develop a harmonized interprofessional, person- and family-centered approach for the continuum of health professions education to more effectively address the opioid crisis.
In this Special Publication, the Health Professional Education and Training Workgroup of the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic identified five action-oriented priorities to support this goal:
- Establish minimum core competencies in pain management and substance use disorders for all health care professionals, and support tracking of health care professionals’ competence
- Align accreditors’ expectations for interprofessional collaboration in education for pain management and substance use disorders
- Foster interprofessional collaboration among licensing and certifying bodies to optimize regulatory approaches and outcomes
- Unleash the capacity for continuing education to meet health professions learners where they are through investment and leadership, and
- Collaborate to harmonize practice improvement initiatives
With due effort and support, these approaches will amplify effective practices while harmonizing and improving the environment for health care professionals to best serve the needs of their patients and communities.
Explore Actionable Opportunities by Key Priority
Priority 1 - Establish minimum core competencies in pain management and substance use disorders for all health care professionals, and support tracking of health care professionals’ competence
National Academy of Medicine Action Collaborative Members:
Develop, disseminate, and implement a core set of competencies for pain management and SUD care across all health professions to address practice gaps.
Regulatory bodies, CE accreditors:
Enable national tracking of health professionals’ achievement of competencies for pain management and SUDs appropriate to profession, scope of practice, and setting.
Foster collaboration among CE providers to address population- and setting-specific practice gaps and share effective educational practices, such as through the development of a community discussion website.
Health sciences journal editors:
Streamline editorial processes in health care journals to facilitate and accelerate identification and dissemination of priority practice gaps.
Priority 2 - Align accreditors’ expectations for interprofessional collaboration in education for pain management and substance use disorders
Health professions education accreditors, Certifying bodies:
Harmonize educational standards, requirements, policies, and curricula for SUD and pain management.
List high-quality, independent CE in a central repository for health professionals, indexed by competency/gaps.
CE accreditors, Regulatory bodies:
Develop a data monitoring system, maintained among relevant stakeholders, for tracking engagement and completions.
Priority 3 - Foster interprofessional collaboration among licensing and certifying bodies to optimize regulatory approaches and outcomes
FSMB, Regulatory bodies:
Recognize completion of education that meets core competencies, including interprofessional CE.
State/territory licensing boards:
Harmonize policies and requirements across states.
Advance assessment and curricula, and quality measures for teams, as opportunities for intra- and interprofessional collaboration.
Priority 4 - Unleash the capacity for continuing education to meet health professions learners where they are through investment and leadership
Federal and state funding agencies, C-Suite Leaders:
Invest in the professional development of CE staff (i.e., educators, administrators) and ensure time/resources for health professionals to
engage in continuous learning.
Regulatory and certifying bodies:
Evolve mandatory CE requirements to recognize education that addresses local PPGs with flexible and innovative methods.
C-Suite leaders, Health care governance:
Evolve learning leadership in support of learning health systems.
Public and private funding agencies, CE accreditors:
Fund innovation, research, and dissemination of educational practices that are effective in closing PPGs and improving outcomes.
Priority 5 - Collaborate to harmonize practice improvement initiatives
Federal agencies (e.g., SAMHSA, CMS, CDC, Office of Nation Drug Control Policy), Council of Medical Specialty Societies, Quality leaders (e.g., National Quality Forum (NQF), Joint Commission), CE accreditors, Accredited CE providers:
Integrate CE and institutional continuous learning and improvement more effectively with statutory practice improvement initiatives.
Action Collaborative on Countering The U.S. Opioid Epidemic
Health Professional Education and Training Workgroup
- Kathy Chappell (Co-Lead), American Nurses Credentialing Center
- Eric Holmboe (Co-Lead), Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education
- Steve Singer (Co-Lead), Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education
- Elizabeth Finkelman, National Academy of Medicine
- Aisha Salman, National Academy of Medicine
- Timothy K. Brennan, The Addiction Medicine Foundation
- Robert Cain, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
- Lemrey “Al” Carter, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
- Jianguo Cheng, American Academy of Pain Medicine
- Davoren Chick, American College of Physicians
- Charlene Dewey, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
- Omar Escontrias, American Dental Education Association
- Rick Garcia, American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- James Gifford, Federation of State Medical Boards
- Lisa Howley, Association of American Medical Colleges
- Beverley H. Johnson, Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care
- Roneet Lev, Independent Emergency Physicians Consortium
- Lucinda Maine, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
- Ray Mitchell, Georgetown University and Liaison Committee on Medical Education
- Daniel Pace, American Academy of Physician Assistants
- Margot Savoy, American Academy of Family Physicians
- Joy Rucker, Texas Harm Reduction Alliance (Former)
- Daniel Sledge, Williamson County Mobile Outreach Team
- Theresa M. Campo, American Association of Nurse Practitioners
- Margaret A. E. Jarvis, Geisinger Health System
- David C. Benton, National Council of State Boards of Nursing