December 9, 2013 – Counting today there are seven days until Indiana’s Emergency Pain Regulations go into effect (on December 15, 2013).

The Painful Truth (my opinion) today examines section FOUR:


This section deals with the Physician’s responsibility for performing the initial evaluation, including determination of level of risk.

It is clearly stated that the physician shall do the physician’s OWN evaluation and risk stratification of the patient by doing the following:

  1. Perform an APPROPRIATELY focused history and physical exam
  2. Obtain or order APPROPRIATE tests “as indicated”
  3. Make a DILIGENT effort to obtain and review records & document the effort.
  4. ASK the patient to complete an OBJECTIVE pain assessment tool
  5. Use a VALIDATED screening tool for mental health and substance abuse
  6. Establish a “working diagnosis”
  7. Tailor a plan with MEANINGFUL and FUNCTIONAL goals (to be reviewed “from time to time”)
  8. WHERE MEDICALLY APPROPRIATE use non-opioid options instead of or IN ADDITION TO prescribing opioids.

The Painful Truth believes the requirements of Section Four lend themselves to creating a checklist. Therefore, at the initial evaluation a Hoosier physician must be DRAMATIC.

o          D         diagnosis made (“working diagnosis”)

o          R         records obtained (a diligent effort made to obtain & review)

o          A          assessment of pain

o          M         mental health (and substance abuse) screen

o          A          activity goals established

o          T          tests ordered if indicated

o          I           instead of opioids, use non-opioid options

o          C         conduct focused history and physical

The Painful Truth notes that the terms “appropriate,” “as indicated,” “diligent,” “meaningful,” and “from time to time” are subjective. Physicians are advised to be able to defend his or her interpretation of these terms.

The Painful Truth believes it is acceptable for a prescribing physician use historical information obtained by sources other than the prescribing physician (i.e., office staff) as long as the physician personally verifies the information with the patient.

The Painful Truth points out that the initial physical exam must be done by the prescribing physician and cannot be delegated.

The Painful Truth notes that a truly “objective pain assessment tool” does not exist, as pain is personal and subjective. Nevertheless, at minimum, a visual analog scale (i.e., 0 to 10) or similar documentation aid should be employed in order to satisfy the regulatory requirement.

The Painful Truth believes that only in rare circumstances would a non-opioid treatment option fail to exist.