A profile of users of specialty pain clinic services: Predictors of use and cost estimates
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During the past decade, the multidisciplinary pain clinic has become a popular alternative to the traditional treatment of persistent pain. There is, however, little information describing this population of health care users nor the impact this new demand has on utilization of health care services. The objectives of this study were three fold: to develop a profile of the characteristics of patients referred to a specialty pain clinic including their psychosocial adjustment to their condition; to identify predictors of the use of the specialty services; and to estimate the cost of health service utilization. This historical cohort analytic survey of 571 patients referred to the clinic assessed them for exposure to selected referral variables through a chart review and sampled (n = 222) these patients' current adjustment and health service use through mailed questionnaire. There were four types of use of specialty clinic services. These included: non-users (n = 210); consultation only (n = 180); and the remaining 32% of the referrals were divided between "users-non complete" (n = 98) and "users-complete" (n = 83). "User" groups were similar in characteristics to each other at referral and follow-up on all the major variables with the exception of two factors: non-users lived further from the clinic than users and users were rated as psychologically more vulnerable than non-users. The best predictors for attending the clinic were the presence of referral information from the referring physician and the geographic location of the patient's referring physician. The prevalence of poor psychosocial adjustment was 55.7%, high by comparison with other specialty clinics. Seventy percent of the variance in psychosocial adjustment to chronic pain was explained by social and cognitive variables. In addition, users of specialty pain clinic services generated proportionately less costs in the use of other health services when they were compared to non-users. The importance of social support and meaning of illness variables in predicting psychosocial adjustment to chronic pain is corroborated in this study as is the relevance of the pain clinic cognitive behavioural approach for these problems. In addition, compared to other chronic pain sufferers with similar characteristics, it appears that the use of the pain clinic contains the use of other services and thus has an important economic impact.
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