Generating Pain Management Information in the Opioid Epidemic Era

By: Mario Ramirez, MD

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Date: 10/10/2019

Filed Under: Healthcare, PDMPs, Clinician Perspective, Opioid Epidemic

Solution to opioid problem won't come from PDMP use alone--effective and safe pain management data

In previous blog posts, I’ve written about the work we’re doing at AffirmHealth to combat the growing opioid epidemic in our country. With Dash, we’re working to help clinicians access prescription drug monitoring programs as efficiently as possible with an eye toward driving clinical decision support based on scientific guidelines.

We believe clinical support is a critical piece of the opioid epidemic puzzle. In parallel with what we’re doing, however, there is clearly a research need on the part of clinicians to better understand how we are managing our patients’ pain and whether we are making progress over time. At AffirmHealth, we are not only interested in delivering value to our customers, but also contributing to pain management research when we are able.

Several groups are working to fill this void and, as a physician, I’m keenly interested to see what we can learn. One such group is the Collaborative Health Outcomes Information Registry (CHOIR) system led by Sean Mackey, MD, PhD at Stanford University. With this registry, Stanford researchers are engaging patients on a repeat basis and have built a registry with 15,000 unique patients, 64,000 visits, and 40,000 follow up visits. By giving patients the chance to describe the nature of their pain over time, and at a depth and scale not previously studied, CHOIR has the potential to shed new insight on the nature of how pain is described by our patient populations, and how it evolves over time.

A constant theme that has emerged in the opioid crisis discussion is that physicians do not have enough guidance on how to prescribe opioids for different pain related complaints. CHOIR is uniquely positioned to help us better understand and address this theme by generating scientific data about how pain is affected by different interventions.

The solution to our growing opioid problem is unlikely to come through PDMP use alone. We have to find ways to generate the data that is going to drive effective and safe pain management in this opioid epidemic era. I’ll be following the CHOIR results closely and look forward to reading about similar studies that others are performing at the edge of our current pain management understanding.

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