People with chronic pain may increase their use of pain medication if they have trouble reaching their health care providers, but a new telecare approach for pain management could reduce the use of pain prescription drugs in the United States.
A study published in the July 16 Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 250 veterans with chronic pain.
Half of the veterans received usual care from their primary physician, while the other half received help from nurses to manage their pain and medication via internet and telephone.
In addition to accessibility, nurses offered counseling to help reduce the dosage of pain medication with hopes of getting the patients off the medication altogether.
"Nearly twice as many that had the telecare intervention got better in terms of their pain over the course of the year," said Dr. Kurt Kroenke from the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, one of the study's authors. "On the other hand, twice as many people in the control, usual care group got worse during the course of the year."
The purpose of the telecare approach is to enhance communication between the patient and the health care provider in hopes of improving patient pain management. That reduces the likelihood of patients abusing pain medication and accidentally overdosing.
Many patients were also able to reduce their dosage of pain medicines or stop taking them altogether.
"I want to be able to control my pain, because that's the key to a happy future," patient Don Curtis said.
Dr. Bruce's advice: The VA in San Diego and Westwood are using these programs, and other hospitals may soon follow suit. If you have pain, talk to your doctor about creating email and phone programs so the doctors and staff are easier to reach.