For most patients, the introduction to OPOS comes in the form of a communication from their opioid prescriber/pain care provider. While many patients welcome this news as an opportunity to utilize new tools or approaches to managing their daily pain, others view this with a sense of trepidation, seeing this as a threat to their continued access to opioids and worrying about the time and expense of an additional medical appointment each month. Questions surrounding why they have to participate with this extra step while other providers are not doing this for their patients. Once a patient begins the OPOS program, these are questions that they can begin to answer themselves.
Fast forward six months. Patients are no longer anxious, education has become an integrated part of their chronic pain treatment plan and they are beginning to experience a new self-awareness and self-empowerment in managing their chronic pain. What we witness is also observed by the patient’s prescriber. As we discussed in Part I, education is recognized as one of the most important and powerful tools in improving chronic pain patient outcomes. For us, these outcomes are not surprising. We observe the journey, one patient at a time. We see patients better prepared to make informed decisions about their pain care with consideration about short term and long term trade-offs.
Between six to eight months of a patient’s educational journey we see patients make active decisions about their pain care. We see patients applying new knowledge to increase their quality and enjoyment of life. We see more active consideration of the benefits, risks, and harms of different treatment options. Prescribing physicians describe a heightened level of dialogue with their patients about treatment plans. For the more empirically minded, we see the majority of patients asking for adjustments in their treatment plans based on long term functional and treatment goals.
How do we do this and why isn’t every practice doing this? In Part I of this series, we described that the biggest barrier to providing patient education is adequate reimbursement and limited time. OPOS utilizes a group education model, like a classroom setting known as a shared medical appointment (SMA). Shared Medical Appointments have been used across most chronic diseases with impressive results for well over a decade. We deliver education using telemedicine for the convenience of patients. We integrate the educational service into the practices’ treatment model to support the prescribing providers’ regulatory compliance strategy and patient empowerment. OPOS telepain.MD services extend the practice treatment capability profitably without consuming additional practice resources. This is a turnkey approach that delivers a high impact educational treatment plan. The practice benefits from new revenue and patients benefit through empowerment in the understanding of treatment options and informed treatment goals.
By creating alignment between education and economics, OPOS creates a more collaborative treatment environment to maximize clinical outcomes for chronic pain. In Part III of this series, we provide evidence for those that desire a greater understanding of the role of education in the treatment of chronic disease.