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Improving coordination of care between specialist and general practice for people with chronic pain

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Collaboration is crucial for better patient outcomes

Australia’s National Pain Strategy describes three points in the current model of care where sufferers of chronic pain (defined as constant pain on a daily basis for 3 months or more in the past 6 months) encounter “fault lines” or disruptions in their treatment journey.1 The first of these is the prolonged cycle of tests, medicinal therapy and referrals that occurs in the community, delaying effective treatment for those whose pain is unresolved. The second is the wait for assessment and treatment in a specialist multidisciplinary pain clinic, and the third is at the transition to ongoing community-based maintenance once treatment plans have been established. The strategy proposes an alternative model that aims to tackle these fault lines and would see seamless movement across an interdisciplinary network involving primary care and the two more specialised levels of care that employ practitioners with increasing skill in pain treatment.1

Here, I address the second and third of these fault lines — how to facilitate interactions between general practitioners and the specialist pain team at the points of referral, for specialist care and discharge back into the community. My underlying assumption is that the patient journey is a continuum, and patients will benefit if the…