Poor pain management persists in health care. Although common practice errors in pain management have been identified and standards and guidelines for pain management have been published, improvement has been modest. With the goal of rapid improvement in pain management, a joint Collaborative (Veterans Health Administration and Institute for Healthcare Improvement) was conducted from May 2000 to January 2001.
To improve delivery of pain management to VHA patients and to compare team process and patient report data on key goals from selected study units.
Charts were reviewed for outcome and process measures. Measures included changes in percentage of patients with (1) moderate to severe pain, (2) documentation of a pain assessment, (3) documentation of a pain care plan, and (4) documentation that the patient received pain education.
Seventy teams from 22 Veteran's Integrated Service Networks throughout the U.S. participated. Moderate or severe pain on study units dropped from 24% to 17%; pain assessment increased from 75% to 85%; pain care plans for patients with at least mild pain increased from 58% to 78%; and number of patients provided with pain educational materials increased from 35% to 62%.
Significant progress toward the target goals was reported during the Collaborative period. This improvement needs to be viewed in the context of a VHA system-wide effort to improve pain management. Data suggest that a program of team formation, goal identification, testing and adaptation of recommended system changes, sharing and feedback of process and outcome information can produce significant change in pain management in a major health care organization.