Treating Chronic Pain: The Doctor-Patient Disconnect
This post is part of a series highlighting findings from our report Flipping the Script: Living with Chronic Pain Amid the Opioid Epidemic. To see more posts from this series, click here.
In our last post, we examined how the opioid epidemic is having a widespread impact on those living with chronic pain, and the stigma it has created regarding opioid use. But how is this crisis impacting the patient-doctor relationship? Healthcare providers now have an even more delicate job of finding a balance in a shifting environment. They must alter how they administer opioids to their patients and how they treat chronic pain overall.
In fact, a survey conducted by The Boston Globe and SERMO, respondents revealed that nearly one in 10 doctors have stopped prescribing opioids, and more than one-third believe that reduced prescribing has hurt patients living with chronic pain.
Out of the 1,500 chronic pain patients surveyed in our report, Flipping the Script, 34% actually stopped taking opioids because their doctors would no longer prescribe them. Because of this shift in doctor’s requirements and attitudes when it comes to opioids, patients are noticing the difference when it comes to their treatment. This has bled into doctor-patient communication:
- 42% said the stigma around opioids has impacted how they communicate with their doctor about their pain
- 13% said they are more cautious in their communication
- 20% said they downplay the level of their pain to their doctors
- 9% said they emphasize their level of pain
The treatment experience between doctors and patients has shifted so dramatically that many patients have lost confidence in doctors having all the answers. More than half (59%) of patients do not believe their doctor is completely informed of treatments outside of prescription drugs, and when those drugs are no longer a readily available option, those living with chronic pain have to seek alternatives themselves.
To further explore how the doctor patient relationship is changing, download our full report here.
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