Telephone-based pain management can improve symptoms in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain, according to a study conducted at Veterans Affairs primary care clinics and published in JAMA.
Some 250 patients with musculoskeletal pain lasting at least 3 months were randomized to a telecare intervention or usual care. The intervention included frequent automated symptom monitoring (via voice-recorded phone calls or Internet), which triggered calls with nurse care managers for issues such as inadequate symptom improvement or medication nonadherence. The nurses worked in collaboration with primary care physicians and pain specialists. Usual-care patients received all care from their primary care physicians.
Intervention patients had significantly greater reductions in pain scores than usual-care patients: at 12 months, the mean pain score was 3.57 (out of a possible 10) in the intervention group and 4.59 in the usual-care group, a difference the researchers deem “clinically important.”
Editorialists call the intervention “promising” but note several limitations, including the question of generalizability outside the VA system.