Does Your Pain Medicine Practice Know the Value of Digital Health?
If you’re human, physical pain is part of your life, at least from time to time. For more than 50 million adults in the United States, though, it’s chronic and impacts not only their body but also their emotional, functional, and financial health and social life.
The chronic pain that beleaguers an estimated 20.9% of this country’s adult population isn’t simply an inconvenience to many of those suffering from it. An often debilitating condition that affects daily work and life activities, it has been linked with depression, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, higher suicide risk, and substance use and misuse. Financially, it costs the U.S. healthcare system through care utilization and lost productivity totaling roughly $560 to $635 billion per year.
Specializing in Pain (Management)
The diagnosis and treatment of pain are integral to the practice of medicine, and primary care physicians often help patients manage chronic pain. Pain management specialists, though, focus on helping patients find relief from pain due to underlying conditions or as long-term consequences of surgical procedures. Their goal is to help patients feel better and maintain function to improve their quality of life.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends a multidisciplinary approach for chronic pain across various disciplines using the following five broad treatment categories:
- Various classes of medications, including non-opioids and opioids
- Restorative therapies, including those implemented by physical therapists and occupational therapists
- Interventional approaches, including image-guided and minimally invasive procedure
- Behavioral approaches for psychological, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social aspects of pain
- Complementary and integrative health, including treatment modalities such as acupuncture, massage, movement therapies, and spirituality
By personalizing care based on a patient’s specific condition and need and utilizing the right mix of treatments, pain management specialists help patients better control pain, increase their ability to function personally and professionally, provide them with an improved sense of overall well-being, decrease reliance on strong medications, and organize any additional medical assistance needed. They’re also able to educate patients on common types of pain and what they mean.
Painless Technology Tools for Pain Management Specialists
Just because so many Americans deal with chronic pain doesn’t mean they seek help for it. In fact, as many as 40% of individuals do not receive treatment for the pain they experience. Why? Common barriers to care for patients with chronic pain consist of work and/or childcare demands, functional disability, financial costs, and geographical distance.
Another obstacle to patients seeing a pain management specialist is the ongoing physician shortage. According to the Institute of Medicine, there is only one certified pain medicine specialist for every 28,500 Americans with pain.
This is just one of the many areas of healthcare in which the use of digital health is making a difference — for providers and patients. Remote patient monitoring (RPM), for example, enables pain medicine specialists and other doctors to collect and track pain-related data in between appointments.
Telehealth is another digital component of virtual care that pain medicine specialists can add to their patient care toolbox. Along with providing patients with convenience, accessibility, and a reduced risk of exposure to contagious diseases, it often allows them to receive ongoing care faster and more affordably. The use of telehealth is especially beneficial for patients who don’t want to risk a setback or further injury from physical travel.
Some pain management specialists also employ telehealth to conduct behavioral health interventions with their patients. Stress management, thought modification, and physical therapy all are interventions that are an integral aspect of multidisciplinary pain treatment.
Even digital health tools such as those designed to streamline registration benefit pain management specialists and the medical groups of which they are a part. Digital check-in saves patients time, eliminates the need for redundant data entry, and reduces in-office wait time, resulting in increased satisfaction. Plus, it reduces the likelihood of errors occurring during patient registration, especially those due to illegible handwriting and mistakes in data entry, and frees up time for front-office staff to give them more time to focus on other tasks.
Schedule a meeting with us to find out how these digital health resources can improve your medical group’s ability to promote patient engagement while saving you time and money!