ER physicians call for the removal of pain care questions from CAHPS surveys

In a letter addressed to HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, Jay Kaplan, MD, president of American College of Emergency Physicians, argues that asking patients about pain care on surveys like the HCAHPS encourages the over-prescription of opioids. The letter calls for the removal of such questions from numerous CAHPS surveys.

Dr. Kaplan writes, "Patient experience/satisfaction surveys are important, particularly regarding issues of treating patients with dignity and respect, but questions about pain have resulted in unintended consequences and the pursuit of high patient satisfaction scores may actually lead health professionals and institutions to practice bad medicine by honoring patient requests for unnecessary and even harmful treatments."

The letter has spurred strong critique from pain patient advocates. "I find it perverse that we would be more concerned with whether doctors in a hospital setting felt 'pressure' to provide pain relief than whether patients felt the hospital staff did all they could to help them with their pain. What ever happened to the focus on 'patient-centered' care?" Cindy Steinberg, national director of policy and advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, told Pain News Network.

The letter comes on the heels of recent federal action taken to address the nation's opioid epidemic. In February, President Obama asked for $1.1 billion from Congress to help fight opioid addiction. In March, the Senate constructed a bill to combat drug abuse — it passed with an overwhelming majority, 94 to 1. Also in March, the Food and Drug Administration announced new safety label requirements for opioid medications and the CDC released new opioid prescription guidelines.

More articles on quality: 
Higher patient experience star rating linked with better outcomes, lower readmissions 
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