Spine and Pain Clinics Serving North Carolina Patients With Back and Neck Pain: What Do They Do, and Are They Multidisciplinary?

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Study Design.Cross-sectional survey.Objective.Our primary objective was to describe spine and pain clinics serving North Carolina residents with respect to organizational characteristics. Our secondary objective was to assess the multidisciplinary nature of the clinics surveyed.Summary of Background Data.Pain clinics have become common in the United States, and patients with chronic back pain have increasingly been seeking services at these clinics. Little is known about the organizational characteristics of spine and pain clinics.Methods.We identified and surveyed spine and pain clinics serving North Carolina residents with chronic back and neck pain. Practice managers at 46 clinics completed a 20-minute questionnaire about the characteristics of their clinic, including providers on staff and services offered. Descriptive and exploratory analyses were conducted to summarize the data. Several variables were constructed to assess the multidisciplinary nature of the clinics.Results.The response rate was 75%. There was marked heterogeneity among the clinics surveyed. Fifty-nine percent of practices were free-standing (n = 27) and 61% were physician-owned (n = 28). Twenty-five clinics (54%) had an anesthesiologist. Other common physician providers were physiatrists and surgeons. Less than one third of sites had mental health providers (n = 12; 26%); only 26% employed physical therapists. Seventy-six percent of sites offered epidural injections, 74% long-term narcotic prescriptions, and 67% antidepressants. The majority of clinics (30 of 33) prescribing narcotics provided monitoring of therapy using periodic urine toxicology testing. Forty-eight percent of sites (n = 22) offered exercise instruction. Few clinics were multidisciplinary in nature. Only 3 (7%) met the criteria of having a medical physician, registered nurse, physical therapist, and mental health specialist.Conclusion.Clinics varied widely in their organizational characteristics, including providers and scope of services available. Few clinics were multidisciplinary in nature. This information should be used to determine how pain clinics can better serve patients and improve outcomes.

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