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It is a staggering statistic: one in five Ontarians suffer from moderate to severe chronic pain daily or most days of the week. This equates to approximately 2.7 million people in Ontario living with pain every day.
Many family doctors in Ontario do their best to prescribe treatment for their patients, but might lack the expertise to specifically focus on pain management.
The Ontario Government is helping with this issue by investing in new initiatives to ensure appropriate treatment, diagnostic testing and prescribing for patients with chronic pain.
The province is partnering with University Health Network (UHN) by connecting chronic pain specialists with primary care providers through the Extensions of Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) demonstration project. The government is also planning to improve the appropriate use of MRI and CT scans for chronic pain patients by developing and sharing provincial referral guidelines across the province.
The guidelines will provide physicians caring for chronic pain sufferers with more appropriate alternatives reflecting current best practices based on evidence.
Dr. Andrea Furlan, Scientist, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, UHN, has treated and researched chronic pain patients extensively over the years as a chronic pain specialist. She believes funding like this is a necessity for the province.
"Patients with chronic pain often wait months to be assessed by an interprofessional pain team", said Furlan. "In most cases, specialists and family physicians do not communicate directly about what care plan is best for the patient. ECHO will enable a community of practice between primary care and specialists to empower clinicians in underserved areas to provide the best care for their patients with chronic pain—the same care as they would receive by an interprofessional team at an academic centre."
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