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Telemedicine proves successful in pain management

(L to R) Iki Alroy and Shay Leibovitz of SHL Telemedicine attend TechCrunch Disrupt New York May 2011 at Pier 94 on May 24, 2011, in New York City.
Photo by Charles Eshelman/Getty Images for AOL

The first rigorously monitored trial of telemedicine as a means to reduce pain levels and decrease the use of addictive pain medications has proven to be successful. Dr. Kurt Kroenke of Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indiana University School of Medicine, and the Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis, and colleagues are the first to report a successful outcome in patients that had experienced moderate to severe pain for more than three months. The study was published in the July 16, 2014, issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.

The trial involved 250 patients from the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The participants ranged in age from 18 years of age to 65 years of age. The participants were divided into two groups. One group received normal treatment and one group addressed pain through a regimented telemedicine program that lasted for 12 months.

The telemedicine program included automated monitoring of pain symptoms. The participants interacted with nurses and physicians though phone calls or the internet. The patients used the telemedicine program weekly for the first month, every other week for months two and three, and monthly for month four through 12. Pain management focused on the use of five categories of non-addictive pain relievers.

Patients in the trial group reported 30 percent less pain. The trial group was judged to have a 25 percent greater rate of improvement in pain management. Seventeen percent of the trial group reported a reduced experience of pain at six months versus the normal treatment group. Twenty-three percent more of the trial group was satisfied with their pain medication than the normal treatment group.

This is the first report of a success in pain management using telemedicine and non-addictive pain medication. Pain is a part of the lives of 70 million people in the United States. The total cost of pain care in the United States exceeds $600 billion every year. Federal and state governments have adopted programs that promote and insist on the use of non-addictive medication for pain in an effort to prevent drug abuse and accidental deaths from overdose.

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