May 2021 – “What should pain management look like?”

…was one of the questions I was asked this month as a panelist/ co-commentator alongside Dr. Donald Staderduring my appearance on the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative-driven Compass Opioid Stewardship Program, funded by the federal government’s CMS as part of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treat for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act implementation.

This program was created primarily to support healthcare providers through education and outreach to improve prescribing practices and increase the use of non-opioid pain management therapies.  My colleague Dr. Stader reached out to me to participate in the program on the educational side, specifically to discuss some of the problems we’ve discovered nation- (and world-) wide over the past 20 years culminating in the Western opioid epidemic, and how we can do things better.

I don’t want to give away all the high points and steer you away from the program itself, but if you’re in a rush and don’t want to listen to the whole thing (understandable – it may be more interesting to me!) in summary (or maybe as a teaser) I think we as physicians need to:

  1. Remember why we became physicians in the first place, and strive to meet people suffering with pain with the compassion and honor they deserve, and we would want for ourselves if the roles were reversed.
  2. Educate and encourage people to play an active role in improving their biopsychosocial-spiritual health, and reduce their pain in the process.
  3. Educate and encourage people to actively look for better alternatives to opioids – not just from a health and wellness standpoint, but also from the standpoint of improving pain. More and more studies (as well as mounting clinical evidence over the past twenty years) shows us that chronic opioid use generally worsens chronic pain and conversely – albeit surprisingly to most – weaning off of them generally improves  In many cases we’ve seen the pain disappear entirely after people’s neuroendocrine systems re-adapt to a baseline state.

If you happen to be a healthcare provider reading this post, I highly encourage signing up for this free (paid for by CMS) opportunity to gain access to cutting-edge tools enabling you to provide the best possible care to prevent and relieve pain and maximize function in patients with pain. Participants receive, at no cost:

  • Access to resources, webinars, educational opportunities and networking opportunities to support improvement work related to program goals
  • Access to the Compass Navigation Team, a group of accomplished providers and clinical improvement consultants experienced in process improvement, behavioral health, and opioid stewardship to provide direct subject matter expertise and support
  • Peer mentoring opportunities
  • Leadership, physician, care team and patient and family engagement strategies and tools