Do Patterns of Opioid Prescriptions to Medicare Beneficiaries Differ Between Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Practicing in Urban and Rural Settings?

Published:November 05, 2021DOI:


      This study compared opioid prescription patterns among oral and maxillofacial surgeons (OMSs) treating Medicare beneficiaries in urban and rural settings, in an effort to identify avenues to further promote responsible opioid prescribing in a patient demographic vulnerable to opioid diversion.

      Materials and Methods

      This study used Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data from 2014 to 2018, focusing on providers labeled as an OMS. Rural-urban commuting area codes were used to categorize each OMS as urban or rural. The demographic variables included total number of OMSs, provider gender, beneficiaries per provider, beneficiaries' age, and beneficiary hierarchal condition category (proxy for clinical complexity). The outcome variables included opioid prescribing rate, opioid claims per provider, opioid claims per beneficiary, and number of days' supply of opioids per claim. Descriptive statistics, χ2 tests, 2-tailed t tests, and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests were used as appropriate.


      Across all years, the data consisted of mostly urban and male OMSs. The mean number of Medicare beneficiaries prescribed opioids per OMS varied widely, and the mean age of beneficiaries was 70.4 ± 4.4 and 69.9 ± 4.1 years for urban and rural OMSs, respectively. Mean opioid claims per provider were higher among rural OMSs, with large standard deviations among both rural and urban OMSs. However, there were no significant differences in the opioid prescribing rate or in the mean opioid claims per beneficiary in all 5 years included in the study. There were also no clinically significant differences between urban and rural OMSs in the number of days' supply per claim (between 3 and 4 days in all periods). However, in each year, there was a significantly higher proportion of urban OMSs who prescribed more than 7 days' supply per claim.


      Opioid prescription practices were generally similar between rural and urban OMSs treating Medicare beneficiaries. The small subset of longer-term opioid prescribers, which were more prevalent in urban areas, warrants further investigation.
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