by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor
Chronic pain’s multifaceted symptoms require a multidisciplinary approach to care, says the Institute for Patient Access’ new policy brief. Yet several barriers may prevent chronic pain patients from finding the long-term relief they need.
As “Access to Integrated Care for Chronic Pain” notes, patients can face a number of challenges beyond the immediate sensation of pain. Each pain-related symptom may require a different type of treatment. For example:
- Daily lifestyle challenges, such as difficulty climbing stairs, may require physical therapy
- Physical pain itself may necessitate medication or local injections, such as nerve blocks
- Depression resulting from pain-related challenges may require medication or psychological therapies.
But several barriers impede patients’ ability to access the multifaceted treatment they need. As the policy brief points out:
- A fee-for-service medical reimbursement structure pays physicians for services provided instead of overall patient improvement.
- Insurer’s short-term cost perspective favors keeping patient expenses low in the near term. Taking an integrated approach, however, could save costs in the long term by improving patients’ overall health.
- The desire for immediate pain relief may lead to medication-only treatment plans that do not fully address the multiple facets of chronic pain.
- Time-strapped primary care providers often treat chronic pain patients, though they may lack both training on chronic pain management and contact with other health care providers who can support integrated care.
To help chronic pain patients access the integrated care they need, payment systems must focus on patient outcomes, broaden coverage to include integrated care and encourage team-based treatment at the primary care level.
Read “Access to Integrated Care for Chronic Pain” to learn more.