We’ve all heard the stats about excessive wait times for outpatient access to chronic pain care, and yes, it’s mostly all doom and gloom. But by spending a little time developing tweaks to service delivery models, we reckon there are plenty of ways that allied health providers can make a real difference.

For patients with persistent (chronic) pain, the importance of having timely access to treatment, information and support can’t be understated. But for many Australians, this is simply not their experience. According to some reports, the average Australian is forced to wait for between six months and three years to access a multidisciplinary pain-management program (if there’s even a program available in their area).

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The federal review of service funding and delivery models over the last couple of months has really got us thinking about these harsh realities and the role that allied health practitioners can play in helping to turn things around – even on a shoe-string budget.

For a better overview of the stats, check out this research piece by Malcolm N Hogg, Stephen Gibson, Amal Helou, Jacklyn DeGabriele and Michael J Farrell, Waiting in pain: a systematic investigation into the provision of persistent pain services in Australia

Review articles such as this offer an honest documentation of the harsh realities of how long people have to wait to access pain treatment in Australia.  Interestingly, this pieces was published quite recently (less than three years ago) – and our National Pain Strategy itself has been in existence only slightly longer than this (less than five years), yet there has already been a significant ripple effect; with preliminary studies by a number of services around the country trialling different service delivery models to reduce waiting times, which is really positive.

We were at the Australian Pain Society Conference in Brisbane last month – and were delighted to see several poster presentations documenting and evaluating new ways of tackling this important service issue. Ideas included things like “introductory information sessions”, “1:1 screening interviews” and “letters” in which patients were provided with basic management information and resources to support them in managing the effects of pain and preparing for self-management treatment. There are also some great online and print resources (with many more currently under development).

In many services, as well as reducing waiting times, the interventions actually had flow on effect which improved treatment outcomes.

All around Australia, allied health professionals are coming up with new and innovative ideas to reduce waiting times in their particular contexts.

Has YOUR team reviewed this issue lately? We’d love to hear from you – What are you doing that has made a difference to your service delivery and reduced waiting in pain?

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