Health Services Research & Development

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Edmond SN, Moore BA, Dorflinger LM, Goulet JL, Becker WC, Heapy AA, Sellinger JJ, Lee AW, Levin FL, Ruser CB, Kerns RD. Project STEP: Implementing the Veterans Health Administration's Stepped Care Model of Pain Management. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.). 2018 Sep 1; 19(suppl_1):S30-S37.
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Abstract: Objective: The "stepped care model of pain management" (SCM-PM) prioritizes the role of primary care providers in optimizing pharmacological management and timely and equitable access to patient-centered, evidence-based nonpharmacological approaches, when indicated. Over the past several years, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has supported implementation of SCM-PM, but few data exist regarding changes in pain care resulting from implementation. We examined trends in prescribing and referral practices of primary care providers with hypotheses of decreased opioid prescribing, increased nonopioid prescribing, and increased referrals to specialty care for nonpharmacological services. Design: An initiative was designed to foster implementation and systematic evaluation of the SCM-PM over a five-year period at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS) while fostering collaborative, partnered initiatives to promote organizational improvements in the delivery of pain care. Subjects: Participants were veterans receiving care at VACHS with at least one pain intensity rating =4/10 over the course of the study period (7/2008-6/2013). Methods: We used electronic health record data to examine changes in indicators of pain care including pharmacy and health care utilization data. Results: We observed hypothesized changes in long-term opioid and nonopioid analgesic prescribing and increased utilization of nonpharmacological treatments such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and clinical health psychology. Conclusions: Through a multifaceted comprehensive implementation approach, primary care providers demonstrated increases in guideline-concordant pain care practices. Findings suggest that engagement of interdisciplinary teams and partnerships to promote organizational improvements is a useful strategy to increase the use of integrated, multimodal pain care for veterans, consistent with VHA's SCM-PM.