How Federal Pain Management Rules Will Affect Workers’ Comp

December 20, 2017

Genex recently released a brief overview of the Joint Commission’s new pain management protocols.

According to Mark Pew, senior vice president of PRIUM, a division of Genex Services, the new pain management protocol goes into effect January 1.

“That means all 25,000 health care organizations that are accredited by the Joint Commission have to come up with a different way of managing pain,” said Pew.

The goal is to reduce the use of opioids and the Joint Commission is encouraging providers to consider and communicate non-pharma alternatives.

“The stuff I’ve been talking about forever — the biopsychosocial model, dealing with active therapy, dealing with resiliency and coping mechanisms, dealing with mindfulness and meditation, figuring out stretching exercises — talking about all those different things that the pill is not the solution,” Pew explained. “The pill a temporary stopgap measure until you get to the solution which is backed activity in function.”

The treatment of pain will need to be approached differently, he said.

“The high moral ground is helping people engage and be active, involved in their treatment pattern, and to do as much as they can from an activity and function standpoint. Not relying on somebody or something else to take care of their problem, but maintaining the locus of control within themselves in developing the resilience, and coping mechanisms do that,” said Pew.

A big undertaking, hospitals will now have to rewrite policies and procedures and designate someone to manage the process, he said.

The impact on the workers’ comp industry, according to Pew, will likely be a reduction of injured workers receiving opioids for acute pain management.

“I think what hopefully we’ll find is that we have less people where acute pain turns into chronic pain inappropriately,” Pew said.

There could even be a reduction in chronic pain cases in a few years, he added.

“Maybe in two or three years if we look back on comp, maybe we see less chronic pain cases because the acute pain stage is being handled more efficaciously by not over‑prescribing opioids, by prescribing more locus‑of‑control‑within‑yourself‑type stuff in order to manage their pain,” Pew said. “And, so, they’re being taught early on that it’s time to get back to life. That checking out just because you had an injury is not the option now.”

The changes should prompt discussions with providers on whether they are accredited by the Joint Commission, he said, adding that treatment patterns and they way they report results could be different.

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