Harnessing choice architecture in urologic practice: Implementation of an opioid-sparing protocol grounded in cognitive behavioral theory

Adrien N. Bernstein, Alex Nourian, Marshall Strother, Allwin Lobo, Karthik Devarajan, Darrin Richman, Maureen V. Hill, Lisa Conrad, Amy Magagna, Rosalia Viterbo, Richard Greenberg, David Chen, Marc Smaldone, Andres Correa, Robert Uzzo, Alexander Kutikov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Opioids are prescribed excessively following surgery. As many urologic oncology procedures are performed minimally invasively, an opportunity exists to push forward initiatives to minimize postoperative opioid use. Materials and Methods: A quality improvement initiative to reduce inpatient opioid prescribing was launched at a tertiary cancer center. In Phase I (December 2019–July 2020), providers were instructed to start standing acetaminophen. In Phase II (beginning August 2020), education was provided to the entire care team and ordersets were modified to an opioid sparing protocol (OSP). We analyzed the proportion of minimally invasive surgery (MIS) prostatectomy and nephrectomy patients that adhered to an OSP during each phase and compared them to controls from the preceding 2 years. Results: A total of 303, 153, and 839 patients underwent MIS during the Phase I, Phase II, and control periods respectively. The proportion of patients adhering to an OSP increased from 16% at the beginning of Phase I to 76% at the end of Phase II (p-trend < 0.001). The median total oral morphine equivalents for oral opioids declined from 20 mg and 40 mg at baseline for prostatectomy and nephrectomy patients respectively to 0 mg for both groups (p-trends < 0.001). Multivariable analysis found that patients received 22% and 81% less oral morphine equivalents during Phase I and II respectively compared to the control period (P < 0.001). Conclusions: Adherence to an OSP is most effective when initiatives incorporate the entire team and are supported by nudge theory-based structural changes. Using these strategies, most patients following urologic MIS can dramatically reduce opioid use postoperatively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-102
Number of pages8
JournalUrologic Oncology: Seminars and Original Investigations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Cognitive behavioral theory
  • Nudge theory
  • Opioid


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