This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.
What is the research about?
Acute pain is severe pain that lasts about three to six months.It is one of the most common health problems primary care providers treat. Opioids, a type of prescription medicine, can help ease acute pain. However, long-term opioid use can lead to addiction or overdose. Every day in the United States, 115 people die from opioid overdose.
In this study, the research team is comparing four ways to help providers like doctors and nurses treat acute pain and reduce unsafe opioid prescribing. The team also wants to know how these four ways affect patients’ pain, whether pain limits their ability to do daily activities when they are being treated, and how happy they are with their care.
Who can this research help?
Results from this study can help leaders of health system administrators and primary care clinic managers decide how to help providers treat acute pain safely.
What is the research team doing?
The research team is working with 48 primary care clinics in Pennsylvania and Utah.
At each clinic, the team is adding an acute pain treatment guideline to the electronic health record, or EHR. Clinical practice guidelines are recommendations for providers about when and how to test for or treat health problems. Guidelines are based on research that compares benefits and harms of different tests or treatments. For example, it is unsafe to prescribe a long-acting opioid as the first treatment for acute pain.
The team is assigning each clinic by chance to one of four ways of helping providers use the guideline when treating acute pain. The four ways are:
- Usual care – the providers see the guideline when they want to prescribe an opioid
- In addition to seeing the guideline, when providers prescribe an opioid, they must enter the reason into the EHR
- Providers see the guideline and receive a monthly email on how often they prescribed opioids for acute pain compared with their peers
- Providers see the guideline, enter a reason for prescribing opioids into the EHR, and receive monthly emails on how often they prescribed opioids compared with their peers
At the clinics, the team is looking at medical records for 10,936 patients with acute pain or headache who have never used opioids. The team is reviewing medical records from the first clinic visit and over the next 12 months. For each of the ways of treating acute pain, the team is comparing the number of patients who receive unsafe opioid treatment, non-opioid pain treatment, opioid prescriptions, and long-term opioid treatment.
The team is surveying 2,500 patients at 1, 6, and 12 months after the first clinic visit to compare patients’ reports of pain, how much pain interferes with their daily life, and how happy they are with their care.
Patients, patient advocates, primary care providers, pain medicine experts, and health insurers help design and conduct the study.
Research methods at a glance
Other Health Services Interventions