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Chronic or Recurrent Pain in the Emergency Department: A National Telephone Survey of Patient Experience

Author(s): Todd, Knox H | Cowan, Penney | Kelly, Nicole | Homel, Peter

Journal: Western Journal of Emergency Medicine
ISSN 1936-900X

Volume: 11;
Issue: 5;
Start page: 408;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Chronic pain | health services | emergency department | survey study

Objective: Persons with chronic or recurrent pain frequently visit the emergency department (ED), yet little research examines this experience. We conducted this national survey to assess patients’ ED experiences.Methods: We developed and conducted a ten-minute telephone survey using random digit dial methodology. We included adults with chronic or recurrent pain reporting an ED visit within two years.Results: We interviewed 500 adults. Sixty percent were female, their median age was 54, two-thirds were under a physician’s care, and 14% were uninsured. They reported an average of 4.2 ED visits within the past two years. Almost one-half reported “complete” or “a great deal” of pain relief during the ED visit, while 78% endorsed as “somewhat or definitely true” that “the ED staff understood how to treat my pain.” Although over three-fourths of patients felt that receiving additional information on pain management or referrals to specialists was “extremely” or “very” important, only one-half reported receiving such referrals or information. A significant minority (11%) reported that the “ED staff made me feel like I was just seeking drugs.” The majority (76%) were “somewhat” to “completely satisfied” with their treatment while 24% were "neutral" to “completely dissatisfied”. In multivariate models, age, recurrent pain, waiting time, imaging, receiving analgesics and pain relief predicted patient satisfaction.Conclusion: Although those with chronic or recurrent pain report relatively high satisfaction with the ED, our findings suggests that specific areas, such as unmet needs for information and specialty referral, might be targeted to improve care. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(5): 408-415.]
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