Pain management scores rise moderately, leave room for improvement

With post-surgical pain evaluations tracking closely with overall patient satisfaction scores during hospital stays, pain management at hospitals is improving, but not at the rate industry experts would like.

There is an increase in patient satisfaction with pain care in government-owned, for-profit and nonprofit hospitals, but that increase didn't keep pace with other improvements such as satisfaction with overall care, according to an article in Anesthesiology News.

Researchers of a study pending publication examined patient experience data from more than 1,800 hospitals, and found that on average, hospitals were "always" able to control a patient's pain 70 percent of the time, an increase of 2.54 percent from 2008, while other metrics increased at higher rates, the article states.

"Overall, a majority of patients in the hospital setting are still moderately satisfied with their pain control, but we can certainly do better," said Anita Gupta, D.O., principal investigator of the study and vice chair of the Division of Pain Medicine and Regional Anesthesiology at Philadelphia's Drexel University College of Medicine, according to the article. The modest improvement means the industry must encourage more advocacy, research and education in acute and chronic pain management.

However, the survey results are inherently subjective and are a government attempt to cut costs, according to John Dombrowski, M.D., medical director of the Anesthesiologist Assistant Program and clinical assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University. He said the survey does provide anesthesiologists valuable information to improve their work, but researchers must examine factors like blood pressure and heart rate when assessing pain to get a more accurate picture of the symptoms patients actually experience.

Hospitals across the country try various techniques to manage patient pain. At Chronic Pain Rehabilitation at James A. Haley Veteran's Hospital in Tampa, Florida, staff treat a patient pain by using therapy to improve patient function, eliminating opioids during the patient's stay and using various questionnaires to assess pain and pain management success, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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