Assessing the Quality of Outpatient Pain Care and Opioid Prescribing in the Military Health System

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U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante
U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante

April 20, 2022 | Originally published by National Defense Research Institute on April 1, 2022

Pain conditions are the leading cause of disability among active-duty service members. Given the significant implications for force readiness and service member well-being, the Military Health System (MHS) has made it a strategic priority to provide service members with the highest-quality treatment for pain conditions.

RAND researchers assessed MHS outpatient care for acute and chronic pain, including opioid prescribing. The assessment involved developing a set of 14 quality measures designed to assess aspects of outpatient care for pain, including care associated with dental and ambulatory procedures, acute low back pain, chronic pain, opioid prescribing, and medication treatment for opioid use disorder. This report offers the most comprehensive examination to date of the quality and safety of pain care in the MHS and its alignment with evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. It identifies several areas of strength in pain care delivery, along with some areas for improvement, and provides recommendations to support the MHS in continuing to improve pain care for service members.

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