December 8, 2011
by Pamela Katz Ressler, MS-PREP, RN, HN-BC, adjunct faculty Pain Research, Education and Policy Program, Tufts University School of Medicine and PREP-Aired blog moderator
As has been discussed previously in this blog, the under-treatment of chronic or persistent pain places an enormous burden on individuals, the health care system, the economy and our society. In June 2011, the Institute of Medicine reported that there are an estimated 116 million individuals in the United states who report chronic pain, at an economic cost of $635 billion per year. According to a recent article by Matthew Brady in the magazine of the site, Angie’s List, (which reviews numerous categories of service and health care providers;) “health care providers in the pain management category garner negative reviews at twice the average of other Angie’s List categories” Additionally, Angie’s List members reported that their “health care provider didn’t take their problem with pain seriously”.
While reports of patient dissatisfaction with chronic pain management are disturbing, they are understandable when one recognizes the paucity of training most clinicians receive in chronic pain management. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges less than 1 in 4 of the 133 accredited medical schools in the country teach students about chronic pain management and most students receive less than 11 hours of pain management training in their entire 4 years of medical school.
Addressing the systemic lack of comprehensive pain education is a key mission of the Tufts University School of Medicine’s Pain Research, Education and Policy Program (PREP). The founding director of the PREP program, Dr. Dan Carr, states that the high level of dissatisfaction and complaints among patients seeking effective chronic pain management may reflect the traditional training of clinicians to focus only on objective measures and procedures to alleviate pain, without regard to the social and psychological aspects of persistent pain. “There is an enormous social component to pain,” states Dr. Carr. “Patients will be more satisfied if they feel they have been cared for. That has more to do with their satisfaction with pain control than the actual intensity of their pain.”
While there are no easy answers to chronic pain management; patients, clinicians, educators and health care stakeholders all agree that our current approach to pain management is inadequate and needs to be addressed as we prepare to meet the increasing health needs of an aging baby-boomer population.
What are your thoughts on how we can create a more comprehensive model of chronic pain management?