Health Services Research & Development

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Henry SG, Matthias MS. Patient-Clinician Communication About Pain: A Conceptual Model and Narrative Review. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.). 2018 Nov 1; 19(11):2154-2165.
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Abstract: Objective: Productive patient-clinician communication is an important component of effective pain management, but we know little about how patients and clinicians actually talk about pain in clinical settings and how it might be improved to produce better patient outcomes. The objective of this review was to create a conceptual model of patient-clinician communication about noncancer pain, review and synthesize empirical research in this area, and identify priorities for future research. Methods: A conceptual model was developed that drew on existing pain and health communication research. CINAHL, EMBASE, and PubMed were searched to find studies reporting empirical data on patient-clinician communication about noncancer pain; results were supplemented with manual searches. Studies were categorized and analyzed to identify crosscutting themes and inform model development. Results: The conceptual model comprised the following components: contextual factors, clinical interaction, attitudes and beliefs, and outcomes. Thirty-nine studies met inclusion criteria and were analyzed based on model components. Studies varied widely in quality, methodology, and sample size. Two provisional conclusions were identified: contrary to what is often reported in the literature, discussions about analgesics are most frequently characterized by patient-clinician agreement, and self-presentation during patient-clinician interactions plays an important role in communication about pain and opioids. Conclusions: Published studies on patient-clinician communication about noncancer pain are few and diverse. The conceptual model presented here can help to identify knowledge gaps and guide future research on communication about pain. Investigating the links between communication and pain-related outcomes is an important priority for future research.