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      Opioid Policy and Chronic Pain Treatment Access Experiences: A Multi-Stakeholder Qualitative Analysis and Conceptual Model

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          Patients on long-term opioid therapy (LTOT) for pain have difficulty accessing primary care clinicians who are willing to prescribe opioids or provide multimodal pain treatment. Recent treatment guidelines and statewide policies aimed at reducing inappropriate prescribing may exacerbate these access issues, but further research is needed on this issue. This study aimed to understand barriers to primary care access and multimodal treatment for chronic pain from the perspective of multiple stakeholders.


          Qualitative, semi-structured phone interviews were conducted with adult patients with chronic pain, primary care clinicians, and clinic office staff in Michigan. Interview questions covered stakeholder experiences with prescription opioids, opioid-related policies, and access to care for chronic pain. Interviews were coded using inductive and deductive methods for thematic analysis.


          A total of 25 interviews were conducted (15 patients, 7 primary care clinicians, and 3 office staff). Barriers to treatment access were attributed to six themes: (1) reduced clinic willingness to manage prescribed opioids for new patients; (2) lack of time and reimbursement for quality opioid-related care; (3) paucity of multimodal care and coordination between providers; (4) fear of liability and use of new guidelines to justify not prescribing opioids; (5) delayed prescription receipt due to prior authorization and pharmacy issues; and (6) poor availability of effective non-opioid treatments.


          Issues of policy, logistics, and clinic-level resources converge to disrupt treatment access for patients with chronic pain, as many clinics both do not offer multimodal pain care and are unwilling to prescribe LTOT. The resulting conceptual model can inform the development of policy interventions to help mitigate these access barriers.

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          Most cited references 38

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          Three approaches to qualitative content analysis.

          Content analysis is a widely used qualitative research technique. Rather than being a single method, current applications of content analysis show three distinct approaches: conventional, directed, or summative. All three approaches are used to interpret meaning from the content of text data and, hence, adhere to the naturalistic paradigm. The major differences among the approaches are coding schemes, origins of codes, and threats to trustworthiness. In conventional content analysis, coding categories are derived directly from the text data. With a directed approach, analysis starts with a theory or relevant research findings as guidance for initial codes. A summative content analysis involves counting and comparisons, usually of keywords or content, followed by the interpretation of the underlying context. The authors delineate analytic procedures specific to each approach and techniques addressing trustworthiness with hypothetical examples drawn from the area of end-of-life care.
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            Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study.

            Qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis are two commonly used approaches in data analysis of nursing research, but boundaries between the two have not been clearly specified. In other words, they are being used interchangeably and it seems difficult for the researcher to choose between them. In this respect, this paper describes and discusses the boundaries between qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis and presents implications to improve the consistency between the purpose of related studies and the method of data analyses. This is a discussion paper, comprising an analytical overview and discussion of the definitions, aims, philosophical background, data gathering, and analysis of content analysis and thematic analysis, and addressing their methodological subtleties. It is concluded that in spite of many similarities between the approaches, including cutting across data and searching for patterns and themes, their main difference lies in the opportunity for quantification of data. It means that measuring the frequency of different categories and themes is possible in content analysis with caution as a proxy for significance. © 2013 Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.
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              CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain--United States, 2016.

              Primary care clinicians find managing chronic pain challenging. Evidence of long-term efficacy of opioids for chronic pain is limited. Opioid use is associated with serious risks, including opioid use disorder and overdose.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                27 April 2021
                : 14
                : 1161-1169
                [1 ]Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan , Ann Arbor, MI, USA
                [2 ]Center for Clinical Management and Research, Ann Arbor VA Hospital , Ann Arbor, MI, USA
                [3 ]Department of Health Behavior & Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health , Ann Arbor, MI, USA
                [4 ]Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, University of Michigan , Ann Arbor, MI, USA
                [5 ]Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychiatry, University of Michigan , Ann Arbor, MI, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Stephanie Slat Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan , NCRC B16-Floor 4, 2800 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109, USATel +1 734-755-1574 Email stslat@med.umich.edu
                © 2021 Slat et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 1, References: 42, Pages: 9
                Original Research

                Anesthesiology & Pain management

                opioid, chronic pain, access, primary care, policy


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