(HealthDay News) — Helping patients understand individualized reasons for opioid tapering and encouraging them to provide input into the process are key for patient-provider communications, according to a study published in the November issue of the Journal of Pain.

Marianne S. Matthias, Ph.D., from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, and colleagues qualitatively analyzed patient-physician communications to understand communication processes related to opioid tapering in order to identify best practices and opportunities for improvement. As many as three clinic visits per patient were audio-recorded, and interviews with patients and their providers were conducted. 

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The researchers identified four major themes from these conversations: (1) explaining — patients needed to understand individualized reasons for tapering in addition to general, population-level concerns; (2) negotiating — patients needed to have input, even if it was just related to the rate of tapering; (3) managing difficult conversations — when patients and providers failed to reach a shared understanding, difficulties and misunderstandings arose; and (4) nonabandonment — patients needed to know that their providers would not abandon them throughout the tapering process.

“Although opioid tapering can be challenging, helping patients to understand individualized reasons for tapering, encouraging patients to have input into the process, and assuring patients they would not be abandoned all appear to facilitate optimal communication about tapering,” the authors write.

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