Research centre drives improvement in chronic pain services and outcomes

UOW’s electronic Persistent Pain Outcomes Collaboration encourages sufferers to seek support

Research centre drives improvement in chronic pain services and outcomes

During National Pain Week (26 July – 1 August), the electronic Persistent Pain Outcomes Collaboration (ePPOC) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) is taking the opportunity to encourage people suffering from chronic pain to seek support.

The Acting Director of ePPOC, Janelle White, said that this year’s National Pain Week theme of “Connectivity” is intended to encourage people to connect with their body to acknowledge their pain, and also with others to get support, rather than suffering in silence.

Connectivity can also refer to how accessible a pain service may be.

Research conducted by ePPOC has shown that while 40 per cent of people live within 10km of their pain service, 10 per cent live more than 100km away, and children and those from areas of high socioeconomic disadvantage are also often required to travel further for specialist pain management,” Ms White said.

Chronic or persistent pain affects 1 in 5 Australians aged 45 and over and costs $139 billion per year, including losses in quality of life and productivity. Chronic pain is complex, lasts more than 3-6 months, and its management requires a comprehensive biopsychosocial response, achieved using a multidisciplinary team of clinicians who specialise in chronic pain and its treatment.

Driving quality improvement across Australia and New Zealand, ePPOC systematically evaluates the treatment provided by pain services and the outcomes achieved for patients using patient reported outcome measures.

Janelle White, Acting Director of the electronic Persistent Pain Outcomes Collaboration (ePPOC) at the University of Wollongong interviewed during pain week

Janelle White, Acting Director of the electronic Persistent Pain Outcomes Collaboration (ePPOC).

Established in 2013 as an initiative of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists’ Faculty of Pain Medicine and the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation, and based at UOW’s Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI), ePPOC is now a leader in the measurement of chronic pain outcomes internationally.

By embedding standardised clinical assessment and routine collection of data in more than 100 adult and paediatric pain services, ePPOC’s longitudinal dataset now contains information on pain outcomes experienced by more than 125,000 patients. This information is used to assist pain services to evaluate and compare their performance with other services across Australia and New Zealand.

“Using data collected over nine years we have helped services decipher the meaning behind the numbers, allowing them to understand how they can improve their practice to achieve better outcomes for their patients,” Ms White said.

“Ultimately, this has led to improvements in quality of life for a lot of people in Australia that experience chronic pain.”

Working in close collaboration with clinicians, services and other key players, ePPOC has already raised standards for several key benchmarks, which include pain severity, pain interference, depression, and pain catastrophising.

AHSRI’s Director Professor Kathy Eagar pointed to the impact the research centre was having at a national and international level.

“Australia is the first country in the world to have a National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management, which is a terrific development. A key action item of that plan is evaluating outcomes from patient care using the work of ePPOC,” she said.

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