At Cone Health, peer support for patients seen in the ED for opioid or substance use disorder is key to reducing opioid-related ED visits by more than 45% in a pilot unit and reducing the length of those visits by 43%.
“Peers are unique and can serve patients in a way that providers can’t, because they have lived the experience [of substance use disorder],” said Melissa Saumier, ED analyst and one of the program’s nurse leaders.
Peer support specialists are at least three years clean of any substance use and complete 40 hours of training. These specialists work closely with physicians, nurses, social workers, and staff in the ED and connect patients with community resources after discharge.
When a patient with substance use disorder arrives in the ED, their nurse orders a consult to peer support. A peer support specialist visits the patient and documents details in Epic about current substance use and any ongoing treatment. After discharge, the peer support specialist follows up to discuss the patient’s treatment plan, side effects, concerns, or goals using patient outreach tools in Epic. Peer support notes are visible for a patient’s entire care team in the chart.
“The peer support workflow is unique because they seamlessly transition from the ED to improve continuity of care in the community,” said Dawn Carver, Cone Health’s lead clinical informaticist and another of the program’s nurse leaders.
In the future, Cone Health plans to implement the program in additional EDs and expand its scope to patients who are seen for suicide risk.