A study appearing in the July 16 issue of JAMA reports that a telephone-delivered intervention, which included automated symptom monitoring, produced clinically meaningful improvements in chronic musculoskeletal pain compared to traditional delivery of care via the primary clinician. According to the authors, this is the first rigorous test of telemedicine strategies for pain care.
The study examined 250 patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. One-half received pain care from their primary care physicians, while the other received 12 months of telecare management that included automated symptom monitoring with an algorithm-guided approach to optimizing pain medications. The intervention group reported significantly higher rates of improvement in their pain, with minimal opioid dose initiation or escalation. The authors consider this noteworthy in view of concerns over the effects of long term opioid use for chronic noncancer pain. Read a news story about the study, with links to additional information, here.