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Why Regular Physician Contact is Essential for Fibromyalgia Patients

More Frequent Clinician Visits Linked to Fewer Suicide Attempts

Conclusions from a new study conducted at Vanderbilt University Medical Center suggest that regular physician visits can substantially reduce the incidence of attempted suicide among patients with fibromyalgia. The research team found that patients who did not attempt suicide spent an average of 50 hours per year with their doctor, as compared to under 1 hour annually by fibromyalgia sufferers who attempted self-harm. The work builds on previous research connecting fibromyalgia to elevated risk of suicide and is the first to use machine learning to reliably detect risk levels among fibromyalgia sufferers, according to the authors. Senior author Colin Walsh, MD, assistant professor of biomedical informatics, observed, “The study suggests a possible path for intervention. Perhaps we can connect those individuals to an outpatient provider, or providers, to improve their care and reduce their suicide risk. We also might see patients at-risk establish meaningful relationships with providers whom they can contact in times of crisis.”

The study examined health records from 8,879 patients with fibromyalgia spanning the years 1998 to 2017. The group included 34 known attempts at suicide, for which risk factors included obesity and drug dependence, and 96 cases of suicidal thoughts, triggered by complaints including weakness, dizziness, and fatigue. The researchers correlated patient records with estimates of patient-provider contact time, based on billing codes. Lead author Lindsey McKernan observed, “…when you are tired, when your mood is low, when your body aches, you don’t want to see anybody, but that is exactly what you need to do — contact your doctors, stay in touch with them, and move. It really can make a difference.” The findings were published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

Read about the study.

The journal abstract may be read here.

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