Aligning Pain Management Ratings: Connecting With Your Patient

Taking time to consider a patient's pain may help those in charge of care empathize more and alter pain management decisions.

A short intervention conducted during a pain evaluation may produce positive results for both the patient and clinician involved, according to a randomized study published in the Journal of Pain Research.

Using virtual human technology to gauge pain intensity, participants in a perspective-taking group that reflected on the patient’s pain used fewer demographic cues such as sex, race, or age to determine the use of pain treatment than a control group.1

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More Americans are affected by pain than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Approximately 100 million Americans experience chronic pain, with the annual national economic cost estimated to be as much as $635 billion, according to the Institute of Medicine.2

Based on these findings, providers should be aware they may be consciously or unconsciously affected by demographic cues, and their ability to empathize with patients may influence their pain management decisions, said study author Laura Wandner, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist who performed this research while at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“These results suggest that a brief intervention can alter participants’ pain assessment and treatment ratings,” Dr Wandner told Clinical Pain Advisor. “Providers need to continue to receive education about their pain management decisions, with particular attention to the demographic and clinical characteristics of the patient.”

Prior research has shown that clinical decisions based on sex, race, and age can cause disparities in pain management, with women, individuals of ethnic and racial minorities, and older adults less likely to receive aggressive pain treatment than their demographic counterparts. Finding ways for healthcare professionals to better understand the experience of a patient with pain is needed so pain management strategies can be improved, the authors wrote.