Results Summary

PCORI funded the Pilot Projects to explore how to conduct and use patient-centered outcomes research in ways that can better serve patients and the healthcare community. Learn more.

Background

Patients often work with their primary care doctors when they need help managing pain. Sometimes it is hard for a doctor to know what kind of pain a patient has, how much the pain is bothering the patient, or what activities they cannot do because of their pain. It’s important to find ways to help primary care doctors understand the problems caused by pain and what is most important to the patient in managing pain.

Project Purpose

The goal of this study was to find out whether having patients with chronic pain complete a brief survey (MySupport) when they see their doctor could help doctors better understand the problems caused by pain. The study also asked if patients taking the survey saw more improvement in managing problems related to pain than patients who did not take the survey.

Methods

The research team asked 100 patients from a clinic in the Pacific Northwest to participate in the study. To join the study, patients had to be age 18 or older, taking medicine for chronic pain, and living with a complicated condition like a mood disorder or fibromyalgia. Patients with cancer, patients who were getting end-of-life care, and patients with substance-use disorders were not included in the study.

The research team randomly assigned the patients to one of two groups. Patients in one group filled out the MySupport survey before every doctor visit over a 10-month period. Patients in the other group did not fill out the survey.

The MySupport survey asked patients about the physical or mental problem that was bothering them the most. It asked them

  • How much the problem bothered them in the past week
  • How many days in the past week they had been bothered by this problem
  • How long the problem lasts when they have it
  • One activity (physical, social, or mental) that is important to them that they had not been able to do because of the problem
  • How well they can do that activity now and what it would be like if their problem got worse or better

The research team called patients to remind them to fill out the survey before each doctor’s visit. The doctor got the survey answers before the patient’s visit. The doctor went over the survey answers with the patient during the visit.

The research team used the doctor’s notes from the visit as well as other surveys to collect information about

  • How patients rate their pain
  • What other symptoms they have
  • How satisfied they are with their care
  • How they deal with their pain at home

The research team looked for patterns in patients’ survey answers and the notes from their patient records. They then compared the progress of the patients who completed the MySupport survey with the patients who did not.

Findings

Patients who completed the survey reported that they did more self-care activities and had better quality of life and more satisfaction with the care they received in the first five months of the study than those who did not complete the survey. Patients who completed the survey also reported less bothersome pain and fewer problems doing activities they liked over the 10 months of the study. Patients and doctors both reported that the MySupport survey made it easier to talk about pain during office visits.

Limitations

This study only involved a small number of people. This makes it harder to know if the findings are true for all people with chronic pain. Some of the improvements reported by patients may have been the result of something other than using the MySupport survey.

Conclusions

The MySupport survey may be useful for helping primary care doctors to better understand and manage the pain being experienced by their patients. Doctors and patients who share more information may be able to do more to help symptoms get better over time.

Sharing the Results

The research team has presented the results of this study at conferences. A written summary of the study and its findings and a video are available on the American Chronic Pain Association website.

Project Information

Lynn L. DeBar, PhD, MPH
Kaiser Foundation Research Institute
$609,032
Effects of a Patient Driven Assessment Process with Complex Pain Patients (PDAP)

Key Dates

June 2012
March 2015
2012
2015

Study Registration Information

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Last updated: March 14, 2024