Monday, March 7, 2016

Physician Education is Key to Chronic Pain Management

Two themes to which I find myself frequently returning:

  1. Primary care doctors are overwhelmed by and ill-equipped to deal with chronic non-cancer pain patients and related long-term opioid therapy; and
  2. Mandatory physician education would make a significant difference in the fight against opioid misuse and abuse. 

A paper just published from the University of Missouri puts some data around both of these themes and offers an encouraging path forward on physician training (online link not yet available).

Hariharan Regunath, MD, and some colleagues in the Department of Medicine at the University of Missouri conducted a survey asking 45 internal medicine residents about outpatient chronic non-cancer pain management with opioids.  Some unsettling, but not altogether surprising, results:

  • 77.8% reported lack of training in this area
  • 86.7% reported lack of consistent documentation from other providers
  • 62.2% had at least 1 patient about whom they had concerns for misuse or addiction
  • On the bright side, 86.7% believed that focused education could make a difference
So the researchers decided to try some focused education!  After reviewing the results of the initial survey, Dr. Regunath and his team put together a series of educational modules specifically targeting the areas of identified knowledge deficits among the surveyed residents.  

The results were fantastic:
(on a scale of agree to neutral to disagree, % that "agreed" is reported in the table below)

The authors note that despite these compelling results (albeit among a small sample), progress is slow.  "Even at this time, medical education in chronic pain management is still not a mandatory Accrediting Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) component..."  This attitude among the medical education establishment - what's done cannot be undone... or revised, or updated, or improved, even in the midst of a public health crisis - is utterly ridiculous.  

I guess if we can't get mandatory education in place for currently practicing doctors, we might at least start with medical schools and residency programs?  The doctors of the future deserve it.  And so do their patients.   

On Twitter @PRIUM1

1 comment:

  1. Knowledge is power and wisdom is applying knowledge correctly.