AHRQ Advances Pain Management Through Greater Use of Digital Technology

By Gopal Khanna, M.B.A., Director of AHRQ
Twitter: @AHRQNews

It is estimated that 50 million American adults experience chronic pain daily, with nearly 20 million experiencing the kinds of high-impact pain that interfere with daily life or work. The financial cost of treating pain is enormous – between $560 billion and $635 billion annually.

Each and every day, countless Americans face the daunting task of finding relief from chronic pain and managing multiple chronic conditions. The issue was recently described in stark and urgent terms in a seminal report by the federal Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force.

It’s encouraging to know that increasing energy is being devoted to pain management. I am pleased that AHRQ is contributing to the effort with what I believe is a groundbreaking innovation that was developed to help clinicians better manage patients’ pain with greater use of digital technology.

The innovation, which we recently highlighted at CMS’ 2019 Blue Button Developers Conference, is Factors to Consider in Managing Chronic Pain. It is an interoperable digital tool that helps clinicians find pain-related information about a specific patient by consolidating information scattered throughout the electronic health record into a single view or dashboard.

The tool is available as a free, open-source software package that leverages key standards for exchanging healthcare data, including HL7® FHIR® and SMART®. When implemented, the summary or dashboard helps clinicians quickly access vital information, such as patients’ pertinent medical history, pain assessments, historical treatments, and potential risks.

As part of this resource, AHRQ has included implementation guides and detailed accounts of how we introduced the tool in a live, clinical setting. It is accessible to anyone through AHRQ’s CDS Connect initiative, a platform for developing and sharing interoperable clinical decision support resources. Through CDS Connect, healthcare systems, developers, and innovators can share and learn from each other without starting from scratch. It allows for the sharing of experiences so that decision support is meaningful, usable, relieves rather than adds to clinician burden, and delivers the right information in the right form at the right time.

With Factors to Consider in Managing Chronic Pain, AHRQ has provided a digital springboard with potential for improving pain management in a way that can significantly reduce overprescribing.

As time goes on, we want to make AHRQ’s FHIR-based pain management resource even better. We are eager for the healthcare sector at-large to take what we’ve done, to adapt and re-use it, to develop and test it even further, and to innovate and improve on it.

My colleagues and I look forward to seeing this important tool evolve in ways that help clinicians bring needed relief to patients who have suffered too long from chronic pain.

This article was originally published on AHRQ Views Blog and is republished here with permission.