Objective: This study investigated the implementation of a disease management (DM) program for chronic pain among primary care physicians. Its aim was the dissemination of guidelines for the treatment of chronic pain to help primary care physicians identify, treat, and manage patients highly impaired by pain. The goals of the program were: 1) To identify those pain patients who are at greatest disability due to pain; 2) To assess the impact of a DM program for pain on clinical practice; and 3) To evaluate the effect of the program on physician's use, compliance, and satisfaction with guidelines.
Methods: Thirty primary care physicians followed 82 patients who were identified as having chronic migraine headaches, back pain, or painful peripheral neuropathy. All patients were categorized according to their level of disability based on ratings of pain intensity, activity interference, emotional distress, perceived support, and work disability. Treatment algorithms developed for this study were placed in the charts of those patients considered to have moderate or high disability. Physicians completed pre- and poststudy questionnaires.
Results: Chronic pain patients could be successfully classified according to the disability from their pain and physicians were open to accepting guidelines for treatment. By the end of the study, primary care physicians reported improved confidence in treating chronic pain. Most felt that chronic pain management was a problem in their practice, and they recognized the benefit of treatment algorithms. Many of the physicians, however, expressed reluctance to regularly consult the algorithms when treating chronic pain.
Discussion: The identification of barriers for implementation of DM programs for pain is presented, and recommendations for future implementation are discussed.