Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website
Publication Briefs

Study Suggests Primary Care-Based Collaborative Care for Chronic Pain More Effective than Usual Care


  • A primary care-based collaborative care intervention for chronic pain was significantly more effective than usual care across a variety of outcome measures, including pain disability and intensity. However, these improvements were generally modest.
  • Depression severity and pain disability and intensity improved among Veterans in the intervention group who reported both chronic pain and depression.
  • Greater use of adjunctive pain medications and long-term opioids among the intervention group suggested that the intervention contributed to the delivery of guideline-concordant care.

Chronic non-cancer pain is associated with considerable physical and psychosocial impairment, distress, comorbid depression, and increased healthcare use and costs. Guidelines for chronic pain have been developed but implementation has been problematic, particularly in busy primary care settings. The Study of the Effectiveness of a Collaborative Approach to Pain (SEACAP) assessed whether a collaborative care intervention would improve pain-related outcomes - primarily pain-related disability and intensity - over 12 months, compared to treatment as usual (TAU). Investigators also assessed depression severity. The SEACAP intervention included: a two-session clinician education program; patient assessment, education and activation; symptom monitoring; feedback and recommendations to clinicians; and facilitation of specialty care. All Veterans and clinicians participating in TAU had access to the specialty pain clinic, ancillary services (i.e., physical and occupational therapy), and mental health services. Study participants were 401 Veterans being treated at five primary care clinics of one VA medical center, and 42 primary care clinicians. Clinicians were randomized to the intervention or TAU; Veterans were assigned to the same group as their clinicians, with 214 Veterans assigned to the intervention and 187 to TAU. Veterans in this study were diagnosed with musculoskeletal pain (back, arthritic, neck or joint) of moderate or greater severity, and with a duration of at least 12 weeks.


  • Veterans volunteered to participate in this study so may have been particularly motivated.
  • Results were obtained from only one VA medical center.

This study was funded by HSR&D. Drs. Dobscha, Corson, Leibowitz, and Gerrity, and Ms. Dickinson are part of HSR&D's Portland Center for the Study of Chronic, Comorbid Mental and Physical Disorders.

March 25, 2009 in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

PubMed Logo Dobscha SK, Corson K, Perrin NA, Hanson GC, Leibowitz RQ, Doak MN, Dickinson KC, Sullivan MD, Gerrity MS. Collaborative care for chronic pain in primary care: a cluster randomized trial. JAMA 2009 Mar 25;301(12):1242-52.

Related Briefs

» next 171 Medication Briefs...

» next 225 Mental Health Briefs...

» next 57 Pain Briefs...

What are HSR Publication Briefs?

HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.