Doctor’s job is not only to make an accurate diagnosis and recommend an adequate treatment. Healthcare providers have to check the efficacy of the treatment and ensure the patient experiences improvement in symptoms and overall quality of life. In many cases, treatment involves management of pain which can be very tricky. Pain is stubborn and successful recovery is based on a doctor’s ability to assess pain and use the information to check the efficacy of the treatment plan. How do physicians do this? Several options are available.
Doctors and patients don’t always agree
Patients and doctors tend to disagree on many things. For example, a patient’s assessment of pain is subjective. This explains why in many cases patients say they would rate pain level 8, 9, or 10 although the objective assessment shows a much lower rate.
Evidence shows doctors and patients also disagree over the priorities of the treatment. While patients want to reduce the intensity of pain and determine its source or cause, doctors focus on improving physical function and reduce side effects of medication including dependency.
The success of the treatment requires both a patient and a physician to be on the same page. Communications training for physicians helps them assess pain and treatment efficacy with a greater success. Improved doctor-patient communication comes handy in situations when they disagree with the course of the treatment. When both persons are on the same page, it becomes easier for the doctor to assess the efficacy of the treatment and pain outcomes as well as to recommend adequate therapies if necessary.
Purpose of pain assessment
The purpose of pain assessment is to:
· Detect and describe pain in order to make an accurate diagnosis
· Identify the cause of the pain to propose an adequate treatment
· Monitor and assess pain regularly in order to understand whether the treatment is working
Proper pain assessment provides an in-depth insight into patient’s current state and shows doctors whether treatment needs adjustments or not. How do doctors do it?
Keeping up with research
Science and medicine constantly change and evolve. That’s why we have new diagnostic tests, treatment options, and patients have higher chances of successful recovery. In order to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment plan is at an expected level, doctors keep up with the latest research and scientific discoveries. New findings allow for better pain assessment and treatment implementation.
Thanks to the technology and internet access, doctors can access a vast database of journals and studies from their smartphone. Yes, there’s an app for that! For example, Read by QxMD is an app for both Android and iOS devices that centralizes all medical journals and literature. The app uses a magazine format that enables physicians to read and download studies, journals, and articles.
Not only they can check the latest advances in their field, but doctors also have the option to use apps to make a diagnosis. The best app for this is Isabel, a diagnosis assistance app for Android and iOS devices. With results validated by studies from different medical journals, the app allows physicians to double-check patient’s symptoms and their diagnosis.
Keeping up with the latest developments in science, technology, and medicine allows doctors to treat their patients more effectively and to reduce the pain they experience.
Patient’s knowledge and beliefs about pain
Evidence shows that a comprehensive approach to pain assessment involves evaluating patient’s knowledge and beliefs about pain and its management. Having a more in-depth insight into patients’ knowledge and beliefs about the pain they experience allow doctors to clarify common misconceptions.
Myths and misconceptions about health, pain and its treatment prevent patients from getting adequate treatment. Assessing how much a patient knows about pain can help doctors treat them more successfully. This only emphasizes the importance of improving doctor-patient communication.
Pain scales are considered a standard in pain assessment as they allow patients to rate the intensity of pain and communicate it to their doctors. Common pain scales include:
· 1-10 – probably the most well-known pain scale, encourages the patient to identify their pain between one and ten
· Wong-Baker FACES pain rating scale – uses a one to ten scale to judge pain and correlates facial expression with that
· Global pain scale – focuses both on physical pain and how it affects a patient’s life. The scale evaluates current pain levels, clinical outcomes, a patient’s emotional well-being, and a patient’s ability to engage in daily activities
· Visual analog pain scale – allows patients to mark their pain intensity on a continuum
· CPOT pain scale – typically used to assess pain in patients who are unable to communicate and it is based on observation. Physicians evaluate and identify the intensity of pain based on patient’s facial expressions, muscle tension, and body movements
Today, doctors have the opportunity to use different devices that assess pain objectively. These devices are created with the purpose to display an accurate pain assessment and avoid overuse or insufficient use of medications. The objective insight into the severity of pain allows physicians to improve the effectiveness of the treatment plan. Here are some examples:
· PMD200 from Medasense – uses finger probe and sensors that acquire physiological signals which are then processed by the artificial intelligence and converted into easy to understand information
· PainQx – analyzes neural activity in a patient’s brain through EEG while the Pain Matrix Correlation allows the device to filter out brain areas that aren’t correlated with perception of pain
· Pain Monitor from MedStorm – measures skin conductance and emotional sweating that are strongly linked to pain intensity
· PAIN – Pain Acquiring Instrument Neat-O is a hand-held device placed on the patient’s skin near the pain site, senses electrical pain fibers to objectively assess pain intensity
Pain always indicates something is wrong with our body, but its assessment can be very subjective. In order to treat some health condition adequately, doctors need an in-depth insight into pain intensity that patients experience. That way, they can adjust dosage and treatment plan for a greater efficacy. To make it happen, it is necessary to improve doctor-patient communication, evaluate a patient’s knowledge and beliefs about pain, and keep up with the latest development in the field of medicine.