A Primary CareFocused Approach to Pain Treatment

With complaints of pain as one of the main reasons people come to primary care, health care systems are always looking for effective ways to treat both acute and chronic pain. Southcentral Foundation has come up with an approach to pain management that takes advantage of SCF’s system of integrated care and uses traditional Alaska Native values to support customer-owners, with an emphasis on early recognition of the diagnosis and interdisciplinary treatment to avoid development of complex chronic pain syndromes and addiction to opioids.

SCF has implemented a structured approach to evaluation and treatment of pain based on SCF’s system of relationship-based care and interdisciplinary team approaches. This relationship-based approach to pain treatment allows providers to work with customer-owners who may be having challenges, while ensuring that customer-owners have the support they need. Customer-owners have access to a wide range of resources for handling pain, including SCF’s Traditional Healing Clinic, where traditional Alaska Native healing techniques are combined with modern medicine to incorporate Alaska Native values, beliefs, and practices for the ultimate benefit of customer-owners, and the Complementary Medicine department, where a variety of treatments are available, such as massage and chiropractic treatment.

SCF places a strong emphasis on keeping pain treatment in the primary care clinic, rather than sending customer-owners to specialty clinics, which fragments care. Keeping the treatment primary-care focused allows the relationship between the customer-owner and the primary care team to improve quality of care, and takes advantage of the resources available in SCF’s primary care clinics, such as behavioral health consultants and physical therapists.

Recognizing that there is a role at times for use of opioids chronically, early recognition of risk factors for opioid addiction is addressed with an interdisciplinary approach involving multiple providers. Once addiction has been recognized, comprehensive treatment and management is offered with the primary care team involved at each step. Emphasis is placed on maintaining the relationship with customer-owners to ensure that a balance can be found between providing needed treatment for pain and ensuring that opioids are not misused.

Though pain can often be difficult to treat, SCF has found that keeping treatment primary care-focused is key to effectively supporting customer-owners as they deal with pain. For more information on how SCF treats pain, contact the SCF Learning Institute.