In 2014, a review of the NSW Pain Management Plan (2012 -2016) identified Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) as one of three regional areas with significant gaps in access to chronic pain services or the capacity and expertise to manage people with chronic pain.
MLHD did not have a publicly accessible pain management service available to all consumers. Fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) Visiting Medical Officers (VMOs) provided limited public clinics, however all other services were only delivered by private providers.
The existing tertiary pain unit at Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District (NBMLHD) successfully tendered to provide their consultative outreach chronic pain service to the MLHD virtually. This service is led by a pain medicine specialist and supported by a full range of disciplines to deliver multidisciplinary care.
Addressing gaps in the community
The Nepean Pain Unit has implemented videoconferencing technology to enable access to a multidisciplinary specialty pain service for consumers located in MLHD and address service gaps within the community.
Consumers can access the service with a referral from their GP, with realistic goal setting and patient priorities an important party of the planning process.
The virtual service provides:
- comprehensive biopsychosocial assessments via the Pexip videoconferencing platform
- individualised recommendations and management plans developed in partnership with local GPs
- onsite visits alternating between Wagga Wagga and Griffith (a total of three annually) to offer in-person care and clinician and consumer education.
Multidisciplinary approaches work
The service offers a multidisciplinary approach to pain management, as opposed to the currently available local options, which are medication and intervention focused. Moving to a multidisciplinary chronic pain service resulted in multiple benefits for consumers, and clinicians, in addition to benefiting overall services. Some these key benefits include:
- significant improvements in clinical outcomes for Murrumbidgee consumers
- enabled the collection of a standardised set of information through several assessment tools
- improved access to specialist MDT care where options for specialist chronic pain care were previously limited
- sustainable treatment alternatives offering options for patients to access holistic MDT care in addition to medicinal treatments
- increased continuity of care through holistic pain management plans supported by GP engagement
- goal setting to ensure focus on what matters most to patients
- empowering local clinicians and strengthening workforce capacity through education and collaboration with primary healthcare clinicians across MLHD.