Treating pain can be a tricky endeavor. Pain is a reality in medicine, yet relatively few indicators exist to determine the extent of pain, independent from what our patients’ report as their experience. As abuse-prone opioid medications are still the most used tool in the fight against pain, we’re well aware of the liability risks that pain patients present. As a result, many practices have tried to avoid patients who have long-term pain management requirements – we can see them as a threat to our practice. And yet, industry growth projections say we should prepare to help those in need.
As the population ages and industry places increased scrutiny on hospital stays, long-term care and other models, awareness of the prevalence and real costs of pain management is growing. Practice growth rates (in terms of services rendered for specific conditions) typically mirror the growth rates of the products used to treat conditions. In a 2017 report by BCC Research, the pain market has the potential to reach $52.0 billion annually by 2022 – a five-year compound annual growth rate of 7.6%. While pain management drugs will still represent the majority of sales – approximately 90 percent – the growth will come mostly in the pain management device segment.
Pain is the primary complaint in approximately 80% of patients who visit a doctor. So, it is not surprising that chronic pain is estimated to afflict approximately 100 million Americans. As practice leaders, we know that the problem with chronic pain is that drugs are often not good long-term solutions. Manufacturers are aware of this limitation and introduce new devices every year to give clinicians a wider range of options for pain management, such as neurostimulators. Medical practice leaders should see the opportunity to both grow and lower risk by developing protocols that call for safer pain management therapies.
An aging population (and the need for increased palliative care options), coupled with an increase in chronic disease incidence, is fueling growth for medical practice who recognize the trends and take steps to better meet patient needs. But, practice leaders must take care to understand the regulatory environment and the societal issues that contribute to its complexity. Those who are able to fully grasp the trends and issues that are behind the growth are better positioned to remain compliant while attracting greater numbers of pain management patients.
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