Objective: To describe implementation and report preliminary outcomes of a resource-efficient, standardized group pathway for chronic noncancer pain.
Design: Descriptive cross-sectional study of a group-based pain management pathway in comparison with an Australasian benchmarking data set.
Setting: An Australian tertiary multidisciplinary pain service.
Subjects: Patients with chronic noncancer pain actively participating in the group pathway in 2016.
Methods: Referred patients were prioritized to a short-duration group–based standardized pain management pathway linking education, assessment, and treatment groups. Measures of pain, mood, self-efficacy, and catastrophizing and reduction in daily opioid use were collated from the Australasian data set.
Results: In 2016, 928 patients were actively engaged with the pain service. More patients were prioritized to receive treatment in a group format in comparison with other Australasian services (68.4% vs 22%). A greater percentage of patients attended their first clinical contact within 3 months of referral (81.4%) compared with the Australasian average (68.6%). Comparable improvements in average pain intensity, pain interference, depression, anxiety, stress, pain catastrophizing, and self-efficacy were observed. There was significantly greater reduction in opioid use, including for those taking more than 40 mg of oral morphine equivalent daily dose.
Conclusion: Implementation of a sequence of short-duration groups as the default clinical pathway resulted in shorter waiting times and noninferior outcomes in key areas for patients completing the program, compared with Australasian averages. Given the resource efficiencies of the group process, this finding has implications for service design.