Barriers to the Treatment of Chronic Pain that Result in Emergency Room Congestion
Campa, Carolyn M.
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Chronic pain is a debilitating condition that involves millions worldwide. "The prevalence of chronic pain among adults in the United States has been estimated to range from 2% to 40% of the general population" (Glajchen, 2001, p. 211). Unfortunately, chronic pain is a common problem that presents major challenges for healthcare providers. Patients with chronic pain are five times more likely than patients without chronic pain to utilize health care services (Becker, et aI., 1997). "Most painful conditions can be relieved with proper treatment, yet many people in pain and their healthcare providers often face a range of barriers that can prevent proper pain management" (National Pain Care Policy Act of 2009, 2011). The considerable number of patients suffering from chronic pain has partially contributed to the devastation of our health care system; a socioeconomic drain. "The annual cost of chronic pain, including medical expenses, lost income, and lost productivity, is an estimated $100 billion" (American Pain Society, 2000). "Persons with chronic pain tend to seek medical care from emergency departments nationwide despite the fact that the emergency department is a less-than-optimal environment for meeting their specific and specialized needs" (Woodhouse, Peterson, Campbell & Gathercoal, 2009, p. 399). As a result, emergency departments have become overcrowded with people who seek treatments for chronic pain which could have been treated in primary care offices or free clinics. Congested emergency departments continue to be a serious problem, threatening the security of our healthcare system (Paul, Reddy & DeFlitch, 2010). The aims of this paper are to examine (a) the burden of chronic pain experienced by adults living in the United States, (b) the relationship between chronic pain and utilization of emergency departments, (c) the barriers to adult chronic pain management, and (d) strategies for the effective management of adult chronic pain in the United States health care system.