UC Davis Health
Stephen Henry, MD, assistant professor, internal medicine, says the discussion about the use of opioids has come a long way in the five years since he joined the faculty at the UC Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, California. But he admits that the conversation has not yet sufficiently evolved.
Research from UC Davis Health indicates disagreements between patients and physicians regarding pain treatment priorities during primary care office visits. One study included 87 patients receiving opioid prescriptions for chronic musculoskeletal pain and 49 internal or family medicine physicians from two UC Davis medical clinics. Following visits between November 2014 and January 2016, about half of patients ranked reducing pain intensity as their top goal, followed by 22% who said determining the reasons for their pain was important. On the other hand, physicians (41%) ranked improving function for their patients and reducing medication side effects (26%) as priorities.
In response, researchers recommended pain-focused, communication training for physicians.
The research team is currently making a case for opioid management, followed by identifying best practices for patient/physician communications and incorporating them into training for physicians who treat patients with chronic pain.
“Both patients and providers make assumptions about each other,” Henry says. “Some patients believe their physicians don’t care about their pain, while doctors are balancing safety of high-dose opioids with appropriate use.”