Background and aims: To improve care and management of patients with chronic pain it is important to understand patients’ experiences of treatment, and of the people and the environment involved. As chronic pain patients often have long relationships with medical clinics and pain management centres, the team and team interactions with the patients could impact the treatment outcome. The aim of this study was to elicit as honest as possible an account of chronic pain patients’ experiences associated with their care and feed this information back to the clinical team as motivation for improvement.
Methods: The research was conducted at a large hospital-based pain management centre. One hundred consecutive patients aged 18 years and above, who had visited the centre at least once before, were invited to participate. Seventy patients agreed and were asked to write a letter, as if to a friend, describing the centre. On completion of the study, all letters were transcribed into NVivo software and a thematic analysis performed.
Results: Six key themes were identified: (i) staff attitude and behaviour; (ii) interactions with the physician; (iii) importance of a dedicated pain management centre; (iv) personalized care; (v) benefits beyond pain control; (vi) recommending the pain management centre.
Conclusion: The findings suggest that the main reasons that patients recommended the centre were: (i) support and validation provided by the staff; (ii) provision of detailed information about the treatment choices available; (iii) personalized management plan and strategies to improve overall quality of life alongside pain control. None of the letters criticized the care provided, but eight of seventy reported long waiting times for the first appointment as a problem.
Implications: Patient views are central to improving care. However, satisfaction questionnaires or checklists can be intimidating, and restrictive in their content, not allowing patients to offer spontaneous feedback. We used a novel approach of writing a letter to a friend, which encouraged reporting of uncensored views. The results of the study have encouraged the clinical team to pursue their patient management strategies and work to reduce the waiting time for a first appointment.
- Clinical audit
- Pain centre
- Pain management
- Patient experiences
- Qualitative study
- Service-user feedback