A computer lesson on pain control
by Lorien E. Menhennett
$560 – $635 billion.
That’s the estimated annual cost of pain, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine study called Relieving Pain in America.
Having spent this past summer immersed in the world of palliative care, I’ve seen how pain carries a heavy personal cost too. I’ve also seen the remarkable difference it makes in a person’s life when that pain is diminished or eliminated.
So as I continued to work on my mandated electronic medical records training last night, I was pleased to see a 10-minute module on how to order patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). PCA involves a computerized pump connected to the patient’s IV line. With PCA, it’s the patient who controls the amount of pain medication they receive (with a limit established by the prescribing physician). PCA is not appropriate in all situations, but it’s one more option in the doctor’s pain management armamentarium.
I don’t imagine PCA ordering is something medical students actually deal with, but I’m glad the module was there — if only to remind us all how important pain management is.