Managing Pain Through the Power of Technology
Use of telehealth is expected to grow by 15 percent in 2020. With so many new adopters, it is worth exploring the possibility that this technology could help decrease the use of opioids by injured workers. In this session at WCI’s 2019 Educational Conference, panelists discussed the physical and biopsychosocial components of pain and how to help injured employees successfully return to work.
Moderator: Sean Sullivan – Sr. Director, Product Management at One Call
- Ted Borgstadt – CEO at TrestleTree
- Amy Lukowski – Clinical Product Director of myStrength at Livongo
Pain management is a human experience. The use of technology can connect us on a human level. Despite perceptions, utilization of technology solutions is fairly low. It takes time to drive adoption. There are a lot of impact opportunities for pain management using various technology.
It is possible to improve claim outcomes by using technology like data mining, intake/screening, devices, chronic condition tools, telehealth screening and monitoring/education. Capturing the “right” information is imperative. This starts with triage and initial injury treatment. Technology can also be used for health education, including assessing comorbidities. While utilization of opioids in workers’ compensation has decreased recently, that does not mean that there are fewer patients experiencing pain. There are now opioid risk prediction tools that can help providers determine whether a patient is at a high-risk for addiction or overdose.
Patients who are actively engaged have measurably better outcomes. Options like TENS machines and virtual reality can provide solutions outside or in addition to medications. Health services like education, coaching and psychology are important parts of any pain management program and can all be provided via technology. In rural areas, this can be especially helpful because access to providers can be limited. While these things can cost more at the outset for a workers’ compensation claim, they could prevent costly addiction services in the future. Think of the psychology of motivation as a cornerstone of return-to-work. Solution diversity and accessibility improves motivation and engagement. A goal of removing all pain is often not achievable. However, motivating a patient can increase their will to live and confidence in their ability to recover and live meaningfully, even if pain is a part of their life. With that said, it is important to establish clear expectations from the onset and find ways to measure the impact of all solutions.
It’s important to meet patients where they are. Most patients can benefit from feeling that they are in control of their recovery and their life. Other patients need more coaching and guidance. Treating each case and patient as an individual is one of the best ways to ensure an optimal outcome for any pain management program.