When a patient comes to a doctor's office, he/she usually has a desire for something. Most people expect a doctor to actively address the problem. Most people expect a doctor to offer a specific diagnosis. Most people also expect a detailed, quality explanation of that diagnosis. And finally, especially those with chronic pain, patients expect validation of their suffering. Patients want to be acknowledged and taken seriously. If these desires are not meet, the patient will walk away from the doctor with the sour taste of dissatisfaction. Who is satisfied with their doctor?
A recent study from the University of North Carolina attempted to answer this question by examining the issues of patient satisfaction. In this study of individuals with chronic back pain, 69% of those surveyed were completely satisfied with their doctor. However, that means that one third of those with chronic pain were not satisfied at all. The biggest factor linked to dissatisfaction was the lack of insurance. A lack of insurance creates huge barriers to quality care. Those patients most likely to be satisfied were the ones who were prescribed opioid pain medications. The authors of this study speculated why opioid use was so strongly linked to patient satisfaction. Opioid medications may "act as a means of validating (the symptoms)". Opioid use may improve "functional status" or the "patient's sense of well-being". But one thing the author did not acknowledge was the issue of pure and simple pain relief. Most individuals with chronic pain are very happy if the pain intensity is taken down a few notches, even when being pain-free is not possible. A cure for pain would be nice, but pain management with opioid medications seems to be the next best thing.
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