In mid-March, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a National Pain Strategy, five years after the Institute of Medicine called for a coordinated effort to transform how the nation understands and approaches pain management and prevention.
The final Strategy outlines the federal government’s coordinated plan to reduce the burden of chronic pain affecting millions of Americans and makes recommendations for improving overall pain care in America. Recommendations fall into six categories: population research; prevention and care; disparities; service delivery and payment; professional education and training; and public education and communication.
Within those six categories, the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC) calls on a broad range of experts, including pain care providers, scientists, insurers, patient advocates, accreditation boards, professional societies and government officials, to work toward the following:
- The development of methods and metrics to monitor and improve the prevention and management of pain.
- Support for the development of a system of patient-centered integrated pain management practices based on a biopsychosocial model of care that enables providers and patients to access the full spectrum of pain treatment options.
- Plans to reduce barriers to pain care and improve the quality of pain care for vulnerable, stigmatized, and underserved populations.
- Increased public awareness of pain, increasing patient knowledge of treatment options and risks, and helping to develop a better informed health care workforce with regard to pain management.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, in conjunction with other HHS operating and staff divisions, will develop an implementation and evaluation plan based on these recommendations.
Opioid Prescriptions a Big Concern
The Strategy was released just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their recommendations about opioid prescribing for primary care clinicians treating adult patients with chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care. In a coordinated effort, the Strategy also seeks to reduce the need for and over-reliance on prescription opioid medications by:
- Improving provider education on pain management practices and team-based care in which multiple treatment options are offered – moving away from an opioid-centric treatment paradigm.
- Improving patient self-management strategies, as well as patient access to quality, multidisciplinary care that does not depend solely on prescription medications, especially for vulnerable populations.
- Encouraging the evaluation of risks and benefits of current pain treatment regimens.
- Providing patients with educational tools to encourage safer use of prescription opioids.
- Conducting research to identify how best to provide the appropriate pain treatments to individual patients based on their unique medical conditions and preferences.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) released their own five tips for pain management with opioids during Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 13-19). Their recommendations include talking with a physician, taking opioids as directed, planning ahead for surgery, asking about combination therapy, and considering non-drug therapies.
For more information about the CDC’s guidelines for primary care providers, read the announcement published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For a look at the ASA’s pain management with opioid tips, read the ASA announcement on their website.