Dr. Kevin Henry, founder and medical director of The Regional Pain Institute, has contributed a column titled “Developing Strong Partnerships Between Primary Care Physicians and Interventional Pain Specialists” to the summer 2015 issue of Family Physician Focus.

Family Physician Focus is the official magazine of the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

The column appears on page 16 of the issue, which can be downloaded by clicking here (pdf).

Here is the article, reprinted with permission from AAFP.

Developing Strong Partnerships Between Primary Care Physicians and Interventional Pain Specialists

Primary Care physicians and interventional pain management specialists need to have a collaborative relationship in the treatment of patients suffering from chronic and acute pain. Primary Care physicians usually screen and treat patients suffering from musculoskeletal and other forms of pain and will refer to an interventional pain specialist when conservative care methods have been exhausted without any relief or reduction in pain. Both want what’s best for patients: treatment that delivers better health and better outcomes.

What they also have in common is the desire to achieve such objectives by finding alternative methods of treatment to big spine operations, whenever possible. Neither provider group wants to destroy the muscle column and the bone supporting structures. Both prefer to diagnose, restore function and maintain normal anatomy rather than open up patients and subject them to the risks associated with longer, more substantial procedures. There is a terrific opportunity for primary care physicians and interventional pain management specialists to grow the relationships they have with one another and explore partnership opportunities that may ultimately improve the care each is able to provide their patient community.

4 ways to work together

Here are four examples of ways primary care physicians and interventional pain management specialists can work together.

1. Providing education. Primary care physicians and interventional pain management specialists can plan joint educational seminars or lectures. These talks can focus on a wide range of topics, including when a primary care physician should refer a patient to an interventional pain specialist, toxicology and medication management guidelines and advances in treatment, medical conditions, treatment options and wellness. Presentations can be held in a public setting and open to the community or provided at a business or organization for a specific group of individuals.

Primary care physicians and interventional pain management specialists can also explore opportunities to jointly present at local events and conferences, share exhibit booth space at these events and contribute articles to local publications.

2. Lobbying efforts. When potential changes to laws threaten the ability for primary care physicians and interventional pain management specialists to deliver the highest quality of care, they can join together to have a unifying voice against the interest groups pushing for the legal changes.

There is strength in numbers. When providers come together around a cause and stand up for providers’ and patients’ rights, their voices are more likely to be heard, respected and considered by lawmakers.

3. Referrals. Since primary care physicians and interventional pain management specialists share similar approaches to treatment and the pursuit of optimal outcomes, they are logical referral partners.

When patients do not require disc surgeries or other interventional pain treatments, interventional pain management specialists should consider referring these patients to primary care physicians for evaluation and possible medical management treatment. Chiropractic treatment may also prove beneficial following pain treatments as part of the treatment paradigm.

There are also instances when primary care physicians should consider referring patients to interventional pain management specialists. One example is if a patient suffers serious spinal trauma as a result of a high-speed car collision. If, after evaluation, a primary care physician in conjunction with other specialty input from a chiropractor or other clinician cannot ensure soft tissue anomalies are not present, this may present a good opportunity to refer the patient.

Another example is when patients do not respond to conservative care in the manner expected. At a minimum, an interventional pain management specialist can share insight on the case. The providers may conclude that the interventional pain management specialist is in a better position to treat the patient’s condition.

One other example is worker’s compensation patients. Both providers are seeing more of these patients. Collaboration on their care may present the best scenario for more effective healing that gets patients back to their jobs and every-day activities quicker.

4. Delivering complementary care. There may even be opportunities for primary care physicians and interventional pain management specialists to coordinate and deliver complementary care to patients. For example, an interventional pain management specialist may be able to provide injections, such as facet blocks before a patient is sent to a chiropractor or physical therapist for adjustments or PT. This would serve to potentially “loosen up” a patient so the success of these modalities may be facilitated; treatment may be easier and more beneficial.

When there are such opportunities, it is essential for the interventional pain management specialist and the primary care physician to discuss the patient’s condition and make sure both providers agree upon the complementary approach that is most likely to deliver the most effective treatment.

Same approach, same objectives

When interventional pain management specialists perform surgery, it is very minimally invasive disc surgeries, which basically treats offending tissue without destroying normal tissue. Like primary care physicians, interventional pain management specialists share the goal of maintaining normal anatomy as much as possible while delivering quality care.

These medical professionals are natural partners. When they can come together to work on common goals, it helps ensure the betterment and well-being of those patients fortunate enough to be under their care.

If you are a primary care physician interested in working with Dr. Henry and The Regional Pain Institute, call (480) 636-1225 or visit www.regionalpain.com.

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