Prevention and Pain: A major way to save money

This morning I read an editorial (An ounce of prevention could heal a pound of pain) by Dina Overland of the FierceHealthPayer newsletter. She decided to use her platform as the editor of a newsletter that is aimed at insurance payers to directly address those payers about prevention of healthcare problems and diminishing future costs. She focused on an area that behavioral health and substance abuse professionals work in often . . . pain.

Ms. Overland’s review of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report on pain and prevention cited some facts I had not heard.

Chronic pain affects 116 million Americans–that’s more people than affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined–and costs the United States
$635 billion each year. That’s what the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found in its report, Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research.

If that’s not jarring enough, here are some more staggering facts: The United States spends $2 trillion on healthcare, but only 4 cents of every dollar goes to prevention and public health, despite being among the best tools to reduce spending. For every $1 invested in prevention, we save $6 in projected healthcare costs, says Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who participated in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s announcement
of its guidelines to incorporating prevention throughout the healthcare industry.



I could not help but think about the number of people who would never have become substance abusers if their chronic pain had been addressed and treated at an early stage. How many behavioral health clients have you treated for depression after years of experiencing intractable pain?

The IOM and HHS see the coordination of care among primary care providers and specialists as the best way to address early intervention and prevention of pain. What role should mental health and substance abuse providers play in this coordination? How many of your patients also experience chronic pain? Where do behavioral health providers fit in?

Please share your thoughts and comments below. What role do you want to play in diminishing healthcare costs? Who should we see when it hurts?


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