(HealthDay News) — A telephone-delivered collaborate care management intervention, including automated symptom monitoring with an algorithm-guided stepped care approach to optimizing analgesics, can improve chronic musculoskeletal pain, according to a study published in the July 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kurt Kroenke, MD, from the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, and colleagues examined the effectiveness of a telecare intervention for chronic pain. Two hundred fifty patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain of at least moderate intensity were randomized to an intervention group (124 patients) or a usual care group that received all pain care from their primary care physicians (126 patients). The intervention comprised 12 months of telecare management that optimized analgesics using combined automated symptom monitoring with algorithm-guided stepped care.

The researchers found that the intervention group had a 1.02-point lower Brief Pain Inventory score than the usual care group at 12 months (3.57 vs. 4.59). Reports of at least a 30% improvement in the pain score were nearly twice as likely among patients in the intervention group (51.7 vs. 27.1%; relative risk, 1.9), with 4.1 as the number needed to treat for a 30% improvement. Improvements in secondary pain outcomes were also seen.

“Telecare collaborative management increased the proportion of primary care patients with improved chronic musculoskeletal pain,” the authors write.

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