The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released a National Pain Strategy, outlining the federal government’s first coordinated plan for reducing the burden of chronic pain that affects millions of Americans.
HHS tasked the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC), a group of representatives from the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and members of the public, including scientists and patient advocates, with developing a National Pain Strategy that recognizes access to safe and effective care for people suffering from pain as a public health priority.
The National Pain Strategy provides recommendations for improving overall pain care in the United States in six key areas: population research; prevention and care; disparities; service delivery and payment; professional education and training; and public education and communication.
- Developing methods and metrics to monitor and improve the prevention and management of pain.
- Supporting the development of a system of patient-centered integrated pain management practices based on a biopsychosocial model of care that enables providers and patients to access the full spectrum of pain treatment options.
- Taking steps to reduce barriers to pain care and improve the quality of pain care for vulnerable, stigmatized and underserved populations.
- Increasing public awareness of pain, increasing patient knowledge of treatment options and risks, and helping to develop a better informed health care workforce with regard to pain management.
According to HHS, better pain care, achieved through implementation of the National Pain Strategy, is an essential element of the recently published initiative to address the opioid epidemic. The Strategy provides opportunities for reducing the need for and over-reliance on prescription opioid medications, including:
- Improving provider education on pain management practices and team-based care in which multiple treatment options are offered – moving away from an opioid-centric treatment paradigm.
- Improving patient self-management strategies, as well as patient access to quality, multidisciplinary care that does not depend solely on prescription medications, especially for vulnerable populations.
- Encouraging the evaluation of risks and benefits of current pain treatment regimens.
- Providing patients with educational tools to encourage safer use of prescription opioids.
- Conducting research to identify how best to provide the appropriate pain treatments to individual patients based on their unique medical conditions and preferences.
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