A telemedicine program using automated phone calls or the Internet to monitor symptoms and tailor drug treatment might help patients with chronic pain improve their condition, a new study found.
Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine randomly assigned 250 patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain to receive either telecare or standard care from their primary care doctor at a Veterans Administration medical center. Patients in the telecare group reported their pain levels through an interactive voice-recorded call or online, and their answers guided adjustments to their medications, based on an algorithm.
After one year, the telecare patients were nearly twice as likely to report a 30 percent improvement in their pain compared with those who received standard care, and they were more likely to report feeling satisfied with their treatment. Those who received standard care were almost twice as likely to report feeling worse pain after six months compared with the telecare group.
BOTTOM LINE: A program using phone calls or the Internet to monitor symptoms and tailor care might help patients with chronic pain improve their condition.
CAUTIONS: Participants consisted of veterans from a single medical center so the findings may not apply to a wider group. The study relied on self-reports of pain, which may not be accurate.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, July 16