Telecare Collaborative Management of Chronic Pain in Primary Care: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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Abstract

IMPORTANCE

Chronic musculoskeletal pain is among the most prevalent, costly, and disabling medical disorders. However, few clinical trials have examined interventions to improve chronic pain in primary care.

OBJECTIVE

To determine the effectiveness of a telecare intervention for chronic pain.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS

The Stepped Care to Optimize Pain Care Effectiveness (SCOPE) study was a randomized trial comparing a telephone-delivered collaborative care management intervention vs usual care in 250 patients with chronic (≥3 months) musculoskeletal pain of at least moderate intensity (Brief Pain Inventory [BPI] score ≥5). Patients were enrolled from 5 primary care clinics in a single Veterans Affairs medical center from June 2010 through May 2012, with 12-month follow-up completed by June 2013.

INTERVENTIONS

Patients were randomized either to an intervention group (n = 124) or to a usual care group whose members received all pain care as usual from their primary care physicians (n = 126). The intervention group received 12 months of telecare management that coupled automated symptom monitoring with an algorithm-guided stepped care approach to optimizing analgesics.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

Primary outcome was the BPI total score, which ranges from 0 (“no pain”) to 10 (“pain as bad as you can imagine”) and for which a 1-point change is considered clinically important. Secondary pain outcomes included BPI interference and severity, global pain improvement, treatment satisfaction, and use of opioids and other analgesics.

RESULTS

Overall, mean (SD) baseline BPI scores in the intervention and control groups were 5.31 (1.81) and 5.12 (1.80), respectively. Compared with usual care, the intervention group had a 1.02-point lower (95% CI, −1.58 to −0.47) BPI score at 12 months (3.57 vs 4.59). Patients in the intervention group were nearly twice as likely to report at least a 30% improvement in their pain score by 12 months (51.7% vs 27.1%; relative risk, 1.9 [95% CI, 1.4 to 2.7]), with a number needed to treat of 4.1 (95% CI, 3.0 to 6.4) for a 30% improvement. Secondary pain outcomes also improved. Few patients in either group required opioid initiation or dose escalation.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE

Telecare collaborative management increased the proportion of primary care patients with improved chronic musculoskeletal pain. This was accomplished by optimizing nonopioid analgesic medications using a stepped care algorithm and monitoring.

TRIAL REGISTRATION

clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00926588

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