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Health Commissioner Pushes For New Medical Guidelines Around Pain Treatment

Dr. Harry Chen, Vermont's commissioner of health, says pain-related questions in government surveys about patient satisfaction incentivize hospitals to adopt excessive pain-management protocols.
Dr. Harry Chen, Vermont's commissioner of health, says pain-related questions in government surveys about patient satisfaction incentivize hospitals to adopt excessive pain-management protocols.

Vermont Commissioner of Health Harry Chen is urging federal officials to alter medical guidelines that might be contributing to the state’s opiate abuse problem.

In a letter to the agency that oversees Medicare, Chen asked that questions related to pain be removed from government surveys used to determine patient satisfaction.

Chen says pain-related questions in the survey have given hospitals a financial incentive to adopt excessive pain-management protocols.

“The hospitals are creating systems in their hospitals to ensure that pain is aggressively treated, and perhaps too aggressively so," Chen says.

Chen is among dozens of state health officials from across the country to sign on to the letter. The group is also urging a group that accredits health care organizations to reform their pain management standards. Chen says those standards have placed too strong an emphasis on treatment of pain, and resulted in the over-prescription of addictive narcotic painkillers, like oxycodone.

Copyright 2016 Vermont Public Radio