National Pain Care Providers Day

meryl

Every dog has his day, right?

In our culture, groups, individuals, and even inanimate objects are frequently honored with their very own special twenty-four hours. These days of recognition give us pauses to examine their meanings and further their causes.

But there’s a compassionate and deserving group of people who have not yet made the list…the caring people who treat our pain. 

For now, National Pain Care Providers Day is only a dream.

It doesn’t exist.

It should.
It can.
And it will…with your help.

National Pain Care Providers Day
March 20, 2015

npcpd hands screen

It’s time to recognize all who generously and selflessly strive to alleviate suffering. This includes physicians, dentists, nurses, therapists, emergency responders, trainers, masseuses, pharmacists, caregivers, mothers and anyone who gives of her or himself to ease pain.

Why is National Pain Care Providers Day necessary?

Pain is universal. It is the most common medical complaint. There is no escaping it. Pain touches every life. And as our population continues to age, pain is occurring in epidemic proportion.

Pain care is sometimes simple and sometimes extremely complicated. Caregivers can feel tremendous pressure from government agencies, police, lawyers, administrators, addicts, abusers, patients, families, administrators, insurance providers, and the media. As a result, caregivers are too often reduced to feeling “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

In reality, they should be praised because of what they do.

Caregivers who persevere deserve our support, gratitude and, at the very least, a day of recognition.

Popular opinions regarding pain care and treatments are evolving rapidly. Taking a special day to spotlight best practices and inspire possibilities would not only bolster the advancement of this vital field of medicine, it would encourage the legions of those who suffer in lonely silence. Less suffering and better lives for all are the goals.

Celebrating National Pain Care Providers Day on March 20, 2015 – the first day of spring – is akin to celebrating hope. From this day forward, the vernal equinox, light overcomes darkness.

RAINBOW SCREEN

So let’s join together and recognize the first day of spring, March 20, 2015, as National Pain Care Providers Day. Let’s make this day special for the special people who treat our pain. Start by sharing your comments and ideas on this blog and/or emailing paincareprovidersday@gmail.com. Pass along the message on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and contact your civic leaders. Be a vital part of this movement.

Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew and dog will have his day.
~ William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

You are the playwright now.
The parchment is blank.
Imagine.
Create.

And celebrate!

National Pain Care Providers Day
March 20, 2015

npcpd screen

 

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Talking Trash

cj title

On July 8, 2014, the Louisville Courier-Journal ran a front-page article about how hard it is to find a drug disposal drop-off in Louisville.  No mention was made of trashing the leftover meds.  Here is the letter to the editor I sent in response on July 10, 2014.

letter to editor

Dear Courier-Journal,

Drug abuse is epidemic.  So no one should trash talk about Martha Elson’s excellent article, Drug Disposal Boosted by Boxes.  But the trash is exactly where leftover abusable drugs can go.  Ms. Elson exposed the number one suppliers of abused pills, and surprisingly, it’s not the doctors. It’s you and me. In fact, about two-thirds of all abused pills come from family and friends, often right out of unlocked medicine cabinets.  As a specialist in Pain Medicine and Addiction, I require my patients to lock up their medications and properly dispose of any leftovers.  But with so few drug drop-off boxes available, what’s a responsible person to do?

Trash them!

oscar

Yes, if you can’t get to a drop-off box, the FDA says it is acceptable to throw your old medications in the trash, provided you first “doctor them up” a bit. Simply mix the pills with kitty litter or coffee grounds.  Seal it in a leak-proof bag (like a zip-lock) and toss it in the garbage.  Easy.

dispose

The more potent the drug is, the greater the need for disposal of the unused leftovers.  The FDA has even determined that the danger from keeping unused powerful narcotics is so ominous, that flushing leftovers down the toilet is acceptable when a drop-off box is unavailable.ty d bol

The Environmental Protection Agency is OK with this policy.  And the FDA says there has been no indication of adverse environmental effects due to flushing leftover pills.

However, leftover pills do contribute to adverse societal effects.  About one-fourth of high school age youth have abused prescription drugs. Approximately three Americans die every hour of every day from a drug overdose.  More Kentuckians die from overdose than die in automobile accidents.  A very large percentage of these overdose deaths involve prescription drugs.

Ms. Elson’s timely article brought to light the progress we are making.  More and more drug drop-offs are becoming available.  We should take advantage of them when we can.  But please do not let your busy schedule, your concern for the environment, or your unfamiliarity with regulations deter you from properly disposing your unused medications.  We are battling a drug abuse epidemic.  People are dying.  Make sure you are not an unwitting supplier. You may save the life of someone you love…  And that’s not talking trash.

trash talk

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Is it the singer or is it the song?

I love music.

I am not what one might call “musical.” I don’t have the pipes of a Whitney Houston (see: The Star Spangled Banner) or the soulfulness of a Bob Dylan (see: Blowing in the Wind), but I appreciate their unique virtuosity.

I am a pain care physician. Pain, like music, is a sensory and emotional experience. I don’t sing or play. I touch and treat.

Sometimes I may hit the perfect note, perform the perfect procedure, compose the perfect plan of care.

Other times, despite being well versed, my plan of care may not strike the right chord. Then creating a pleasant sensory and emotional experience depends upon the passion and conviction with which my care is conducted; my song is sung.

Is it the singer or is it the song?

Is it the caregiver or is it the care given?

Music is not only intertwined with my pain care. It is woven into every aspect of my life, including my Twitter feed.

Begging the question: Is it the tweeter or is it the tweet?

Let’s find out.

For a about a year I have been composing a Twitter message or two per day. Recently, I went back and was able to find forty tweets that were “musical” in some way. It may not be America’s top forty, but I think Casey Kasem would still have been pleased.

casey kasem b and w

There are songs from rock, country, and classical genres; from musicals, commercials, television, and the silver screen. Some are serious; some are silly. Original works, live performances, even parodies.

I now invite you to take a little journey through my musical tweets. Click on the image and the link should take you right to the performance. See if you can guess the song before you link to it. Ponder how it relates to the message. Enjoy the sensory and emotional experience. And decide for yourself…

Is it the tweeter or is it the twuuth* ?

 

* twuuth (definition)

  • noun\ˈtwüth\ the twuuth : the truth in a tweet

 

#40

1 25 oct 13

25 October 2013  How the Ghost Stole Pain Care. Dramatic reading by Phil Ward and music composed by Megan McIver

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/393876826809843712/photo/1

http://vimeo.com/77715467

 

#39

2 21 dec 13

21 December 2013  A Winter’s Solstice

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/414443104792354816?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh_sckAUkgE&list=PLe1seBFJFklgHIqjjUUUhxZmL_rchZau9

 

#38

3 10 jan 2014

10 January 2014  Act Naturally

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/421697528891854848/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-07qmTUi9A

 

#37

4 12 jan 2014

12 January 2014 Les Miserables

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/422410734950043648/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPIos2mXbUE

 

#36

5 26 jan 14

26 January 2014 I’m Only Sleeping

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/427318581399789569/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KAsr-hix9s

 

#35

6 10 feb 14

10 February 2014 The Gold and Beyond

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/433042987648417792?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hBB4DPw-h4

 

#34

7 12 feb 14

12 February 2014 ABC

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/433632926316515329/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8GvDLDYhNM

 

#33

8 12 feb 14

12 February 2014 Hearing Winter

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/433655563193286656/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaXGGPVNnxU

 

#32

9 17 feb 14

17 February 2014 The Way We Were

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/435621354222526464/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VhNaXV8K4U

 

#31

10 17 feb 14

17 February 2014 Peace of Mind

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/435639476686045184/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5ZL8qvEmR0

 

#30

11 21 feb 14

21 February 2014 Doctor Pat

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/437033465536462849/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vuUpSnPXz0

 

#29

12 22 feb 14

22 February 2014 Honesty

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/437388430465462273/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4gOIt-M02A

 

#28

13 2 mar 14

2 March 2014 My Bologna

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/440310294867234816/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmPRHJd3uHI

 

#27

14 5 mar 14

5 March 2014 Oklahoma

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/441273659001286657/photo/1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbrnXl2gO_k

 

#26

15 14 mar 14

14 March 2014 Hair

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/444682878396293120?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qf2R-1saDQ

 

#25

16 29 mar 14

29 March 2014 Stupid

 

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/449943660134555649?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ers0YPoMxbk

 

#24

17 4 apr 14

4 April 2014 Words

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/452173873299980291?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr-WW5abcwQ

 

#23

18 7 apr 14

7 April 2014 Oops

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/453267038077984768?refsrc=email

http://vimeo.com/54035300

 

#22

19 9 apr 14

9 April 2014 Call On Me

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/453922140312440833?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh86uSsux1M&feature=kp

 

#21

20 17 apr 14

17 April 2014 Lights Went Out

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/456764575258402816?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSSJwKixbKU

 

#20

21 19 apr 14

19 April 2014 Little Wonders

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/457546932161110016?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWU8_uUJJu0

 

#19

22 28 apr 14

28 April 2014 Undun

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/460961322163642368?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzSLxYLuJhI

 

#18

23 15 may 14

15 May 2014 I’m Sorry 

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/467135943741157378?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a_vhiBxi90

 

#17

24 5 june 14

5 June 2014 Let It Go

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/474655637620535296?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtAG3e3JLNI

 

#16

royals

5 June 2014 We Will Never Be Doctors

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxyNzqQNa50

 

#15

25 7 june 14

7 June 2014 Daniel Boone 

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/475246656968200192?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLMCO-JZqWs

 

#14

26 10 jun 14

10 June 2014 Turn It Off

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/476212528289038336?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjCfE1n6nW4&list=PLf470HqOWw3d8Oj5uAXPV19yJ7E7aGDwX&index=163

 

#13

27 13 jun 14

27 June 2014 Don’t Stop Me Now

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/477316980274237440?refsrc=email

http://vimeo.com/30126989

 

#12

28 14 jun 14

 14 June 2014 It’s a Grand Old Flag

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/477902903290515457/photo/1

http://fan.tcm.com/_James-Cagney-You39re-a-Grand-Old-Flag/video/1146300/66470.html?createPassive=true

 

#11

29 15 jun 14

15 June 2014 In the Living Years 

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/478362296126013440?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWiwde4z9Qk

 

#10

30 16 jun 14

16 June 2014 Pressure

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/478599157926473728?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJCTgtDU-74

 

#9

31 21 jun 14

21 June 2014 Sunrise

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/480542585535352832?refsrc=email

http://vimeo.com/88197078

 

#8

32 27 jun 14

27 June 2014 Listen

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/482653910616666112?refsrc=email

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5aRRq9mquo

 

#7

33 29 jun 14

29 June 2014 Rumor Has It 

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/483451855125479424/photo/1

http://vimeo.com/41795630

 

#6

34 the letter

1 July 2014 The Letter

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/484055472618500096

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrv9slgO7Ic

 

#5

35 all together now

2 July 2014 All Together Now

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/484446529210445824

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFpW8g83g6E

 

#4

36 dialogue

4 July 2014 Dialogue

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/484941146976567296

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTL53bmYqzM

 

#3

37 danger zone

4 July 2014 Danger Zone

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/484955780253106177

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58QOBqAWNzE

 

#2

38 if you want it

6 July 2014 If You Want It Here It Is 

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/485956691708477442

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWbTZuEWjnc

 

And the #1 musical tweet in the land is…

39 stipe tweet

7 July 2014 Everybody Hurts 

https://twitter.com/jamespmurphymd/status/486224816618213376

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijZRCIrTgQc

 

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keep you feet on the ground

 

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Giving them the business

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 11.21.32 PM

On May 22, 2014 the University of Louisville Residents’ Business seminar was the last group I would address as President of the Greater Louisville Medical Society. It went something like this…

hello 2 screen

I didn’t have a course like this when I was a resident.

I wish I had.

Somewhere between respiratory acidosis and cardiac preload, learning to read a spreadsheet could have been worked in.

But it wasn’t.

You’re very fortunate that your university is enlightened and generous enough to offer this course for you.

Today, with healthcare taking up about 20% of our nation’s GDP, there are many non-medical types grasping for our nation’s healthcare steering wheel.

Soon you will be finishing your residencies.

You’ll board the healthcare industry train.

You can either be a passenger or a driver.

It’s your choice.

As I prepared for today’s seminar, I thought about what I would say to myself if I could time travel back fifteen years to when I was sitting where you are now, finishing my residency.

3 balls screen

I would tell myself that there are three balls I will have to juggle.

The first ball is your “clinical” ball. Thus far, keeping this ball in the air has been the primary focus of medical school and residency training. Patients’ needs must be met. Your patients must be well.

The second ball is your “family” ball. You’re not on this journey alone. Your loved ones and close friends depend upon you as much as you depend upon them. Lose their support and the stress of being a physician can be overwhelming. Your family must be well.

The third ball is your “self” ball. Do not neglect your own health, outside interests, passions, talents, or loves. Your self must be well.

juggle screen

The best way to keep these balls in the air is by juggling them yourself. Don’t delegate that job. Even though most of you will be employed, avoid dependence by becoming as comfortable in boardrooms as you are in operating rooms. You must not ignore the business of medicine.

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open letter screen

(A letter arrives. It is from the future. It reads…)

Dear 2014 Me,

I’m writing you from the year 2025. Physicians are no longer considered necessary. They just get in the way. Healthcare is a mess. It’s all based on metrics. Everything is quantified and graded. There is no creativity. No innovation. No flexibility. No passion. No compassion. But at least we get to go home when the whistle blows at three p.m.

Yours truly,

2025 Me

*

letter 1 screen

This does not have to be our default future. We can do better. But only if we have physicians willing to lead. And physician leaders now must understand the business of medicine, or else medicine will be nothing more than a business. We must be in boardrooms and wrestle back control of the steering wheel.

*

letter 2 screen

(Another letter from the future arrives…)

Dear 2014 Me,

I’m writing you from the year 2025. Physicians are the essential driving force in medicine. Metrics are used to add structure to the art of medicine, not to govern or discipline. The patient-physician relationship is secure and flourishing. Creativity, innovation, and compassion fuel our passions. I don’t know what you told those residents back in 2014, but it must have worked. Thank them for me and for all of us.

 Yours truly,

2025 Me

*

Someone here must have listened. Someone decided to fill the vacuum created by the lack of physician business leadership. Someone stepped up and took firm grasp of the steering wheel guiding our nation’s healthcare. Someone refused to accept our default future.

Who was it?

hands 2

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Continuity of Care

TourtheTower

On June 1, 2014 at Louisville’s historic and newly renovated Water Tower, the Greater Louisville Medical Society held its annual Presidents’ Celebration.

crowd at watertower

As outgoing president I had the honor of introducing Dr. Bruce Scott – my esteemed colleague and childhood friend – as our new President. I also thanked some of the many great folks who worked so hard to make this the most satisfying year of my professional life.

pat and bruce screen

Before I handed over the President’s gavel to Bruce and assumed my new role as Chair of the GLMS Board of Governors, I had this to say…

pat podium

A year ago, as your newly elected President, the last words I said on that stage were:

The Greater Louisville Medical Society is our organization, our tribe, our road to a place where medicine is both science and art, where our community enjoys wellness, and the sacred bond between our patients and us is secure. And my goal this year is to see us united.

murphy speech at pres celeb

It’s one year later, and our profession is under attack as never before. Physician burnout is an epidemic. This is why, more than ever, we must be united.

Back in the day, physicians were a more homogenous group. There were fewer specialists. We shared common values and common goals.

Now government, employers, specialties, patients, and family pull us in many directions. There is an ever-increasing burden for maintenance of board certifications and licensure. Each separate payer and practice facility requires its own credentialing. Medical liability risks keep mounting. The insatiable quest for quantifying quality with data points and benchmarks threatens to crush our creativity and mandate cookbook-style care. Rival non-physician tribes continuously grab pieces of what used to be our acknowledged scope of practice.

How do we respond? All too often by retreating to presumed “safe houses” provided by the one, two, three or more specialty societies each of us believes offers the most protection of our turf.

Got to survive, you know.

The irony is that these refuges are not safe at all. They are static. Stationary. It makes us benign targets for attack by all who would prefer a leaderless mechanized conveyor belt of universal one-size-fits-none healthcare. This sanctimonious deconstruction of our profession is done in homage and servitude to the inscrutable holy trinity of cost-effectiveness, quality, and value.

Survive?

Why not thrive!

Regardless of where your professional journey has led, you and I and our colleagues remain connected at our roots. We still share common values and must share common goals. We are physicians by education, oath, and calling.

And more…

We love our profession.

We love humanity.

And we love each other.

That is why we get up every day, put on our white coats, and go out to save the world.

Because it must be saved.

And we know…

We are the ones who must do it.

United.

gavel trophy

The Dream of Pain Care… Enough to Cope. the Seventeenth R. Dietz Wolfe Memorial Lecture

wolfe trophy

On April 12, 2014 my Norton Healthcare colleagues bestowed upon me the 17th R. Dietz Wolfe Education Award. Hopefully my presentation of the Wolfe Lecture adequately honored the legacy of the esteemed and beloved Dr. Wolfe.

For now, I humbly offer this synopsis…

Note: This article was updated on April 1, 2015 to reflect the most recent changes to states’ regulations.

 

The Dream of Pain Care… Enough to Cope

   – the 17th R. Dietz Wolfe Memorial Lecture 

 

karen neck

the algiatrist

 

a private place

study her face

fix on his eyes

feel her sinew

give an embrace

 

innovation

radiation

numb a raw nerve

eradicate

pain creation

 

to interlope

to offer hope

through some relief

tiny solace

enough to cope

 

– James Patrick Murphy

 

caring hands copy 2

Contrary to what one might think, it is generally not difficult to satisfy the needs of patients with chronic pain. Like the poem says, they simply need “enough to cope.” What’s difficult is the juggling act providers must perform to keep three “balls” in the air: patients must do well, regulations must be followed, and drug abuse must be prevented. Drop any of these three balls and you fall as well.

Sometimes the fall is hard. A couple of weeks ago I learned of a pain doctor in northern Kentucky who, on the heels of lawsuits and a medical board investigation, took his own life.

Then there was Dr. Dennis Sandlin, an eastern Kentucky country doctor who was shot and killed in his office by a patient upset because the doctor would not prescribe pain pills to him without first doing a drug screen.

Unfortunately, these scenarios are not our only threat. Federal prosecutors have even tried to use overdose deaths to trigger death penalty statues when seeking indictments against doctors.

And we hear sobering statistics like:

One person dies every 19 minutes from an overdose.

One “addicted” baby is born every hour.

Opioid pain drugs cause more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

And now more people die from drug overdose than car accidents.

blame

For this crisis physicians take the brunt of the pundits’ blame, despite the fact that more than two-thirds of the diverted medications are acquired from family, friends, and acquaintances – not from a prescription by their doctor.

So why do it? Why treat chronic pain?

Perhaps because:

Over 100 million Americans suffer from pain, and that number is growing.

Pain affects more Americans than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined.

Up to 75% of us endure our dying days in pain.

True. But pain care, perhaps, means a little bit more?

Hypnosis-Pain-Control

To answer that question we must first understand what pain is: an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.

Second, let’s understand the distinction between addiction and abuse. Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Drug abuse describes behavior born of bad decision-making; not the disease of addiction. But indeed, bad choices, bad behavior, and drug misuse lead to crime, accidents, social instability, and addiction. The developing adolescent brain is particularly susceptible to addiction, while the elderly brain is practically immune.

nucleus

Third, let’s understand the risk factors for addiction: (a) environmental, (b) patient-related, and (c) drug-related. We cannot control our patient’s environment, occupation, peer group, family history, or psychiatric issues. But we can gather information and get a feel for his or her risk level. Then we can control what we prescribe – understanding the characteristics of an “addictive” drug include the drug’s availability, cost, how fast it gets to the brain (i.e. lipid solubility), and the strength of the “buzz” it produces.

And thus we can understand how important it is to prescribe the lowest dose possible for the minimum amount of time necessary, based on the level of risk in properly screened patients; then reassess. When in doubt, prescribe even less and reassess more often. Never feel obligated to prescribe more than what you are comfortable prescribing. Pain may be the number one reason a patient visits a doctor and pain care is indeed a patient’s right; however, controlled substances for pain care are a privilege. And just like it is with prescribers, the patients have responsibilities and obligations to meet, lest they endanger their privileges. They must become good stewards of the medications they are prescribed.

eVoice pic

Despite these serious risks to their community, their patients, and their medical licenses, physicians regularly rise to the occasion and treat pain. Over the past year as President of the Greater Louisville Medical Society, I have written a monthly article for our journal, Louisville Medicine. The reasons that physicians so often rise are woven throughout those essays. Here are few selected passages…

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June: We have core values that we share, and when our strategy is in line with achieving the greater good our choice of profession becomes a higher calling.

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July: We can positively affect people’s lives in a dramatic way and on a grand scale if we commit to our shared values, reconnect and work together. It is not only possible. It is our inherent duty.

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August: Think back to when you were happiest as a physician. It was probably when you did something that was completely selfless, without any concern that the benefit outweighed the cost, without consideration of a return on investment. 

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September: It is why we started down this tortuous path. It’s why we gave up our youth to endless lectures, textbooks, labs, insomnia, and stress, risked our health, and stole from our family life. We went into debt, endured ridicule on morning rounds, and exposed our careers to legal ruin – all so we could commit to helping the people important to our profession: our patients.

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October: Her strength, courage and positive attitude have always inspired me. In the cacophony of that noisy mall time stood still as our eyes met. I told her who I was and how inspiring she is to me. She smiled and we hugged. That was a moment of confluential truth. Never take for granted this precious gift.

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November: I can never be 100 percent sure why I do what I do… but I do know the best decision is always the honest decision, regardless.

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December: I have been blessed with the opportunity to connect intimately with people on many levels. I’ve noticed those who preserve their joy despite insurmountable challenges… They have perspective. Humans are the only organisms aware of concepts like the past, the future, beauty, love, death, and eternity.

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January: Every imperceptible moment that passes is not only a new reality; it is rebirth, renewal, and redefinition. How will I define myself?

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February: The place where you started is your true self; the self that is your center; the self that creates your thoughts and actions. Regardless of your life’s circumstances, success is achieved when your thoughts and actions are in harmony with the true you.

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March: Failure can be painful. It exposes vulnerability. Physicians, myself included, can be very hard on ourselves sometimes, thinking that by intense training and adherence to protocol, preparation, and planning we are somehow immune to failure. This is, of course, not true. Failure is painful – necessary pain – providing motivation to change, evolve, and realize your role in nature’s play of perfection. Failure is not a result as much as it is a feeling. Failure is… a conduit to greatness.

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April: I will connect with you as a person – not a diagnosis. …No phone calls, no texting, no social media are allowed to come between you and me. Only then, with laser focus, do I proceed. The job demands this. You deserve this.

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May: There is a shortage in our profession – a shortage of practical dreamers who can remain child, student, explorer, and physician. Your profession and your patients need you to be this physician. And you need you to be this person.

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While becoming this physician requires the acquisition of vast knowledge, no one cares what you know until they know that you care. But even the most caring physicians find it hard to keep aim at the moving target of pain regulations. Still, if we are going to do this (i.e. treat pain) we should do it right; in a manner that keeps our community safe and our medical licenses secure.

EinsteinAtBlackboard-259x300

Throughout my years of medical training I have organized data by creating poems, algorithms, and acronyms. It’s been helpful for me. Maybe they will be helpful for you. Here are some such aids I find useful in the care of pain patients.

AAAA – items to address at pain reassessments

Analgesia level (e.g. a “zero to ten” scale)

Activity level (e.g. functional goals)

Adverse effects (e.g. side effects)

Aberrancy (e.g. worrisome behavior, diversion, addiction, depression)

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PPPP – the differential diagnosis when they ask for more medication

Pathology (e.g. new or worsening disease)

Psychology (e.g. depression, anxiety, addiction)

Pharmacology (e.g. tolerance, altered metabolism, hypersensitivity, neuropathic pain)

Police-related (e.g. unlawful diversion)

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Kentucky has adopted (and revised) a law and numerous regulations that address the prescription of controlled substances. Here’s some helpful advice pertinent to prescribers in Kentucky:

Plan to THINK – What to do initially when prescribing for the first 90 days

Plan – Document why the plan includes controlled substances.

Teach – Educate the patient about proper use and disposal.

History – Appropriate history and physical

Informed consent – Risks need to be explained and consent documented.

No long acting – Don’t prescribe sustained release opioids for acute pain.

KASPER – Query the state’s prescription monitoring program.

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COMPLIANCE – That which needs to be done by the 90 day mark

C          Compliance monitoring (i.e. Query KASPER, check a urine drug screen)

O         Old records (obtain more records if necessary)

M         Mental health screening (i.e. depression, anxiety, personality disorders)

P          Plan (establish specific functional goals for periodic review)

L          Legitimate working diagnosis established (i.e. objective evidence)

I           Informed consent (written) & treatment agreement (recommended)

A         ADDICTION / Diversion Screening

N         Non-controlled medications tried before going to controlled substances.

C          Comprehensive history needs to be obtained and documented.

E          Exam “appropriate” to establish baselines for follow-up.

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PQRST – That which needs to be ongoing after the ninety-day mark

P          Periodic review (after the first month, up to physician’s judgment)

Q         Query KASPER every three months

R         Refer to specialists and consultants as necessary

S          Screen annually for general health concerns

T         Toxicology screens (i.e. urine) and pill counts randomly and at intervals dependent on the patient’s level of risk.

For more detail please review: THE CHRONIC PAIN PATIENT’S GUIDE TO KENTUCKY’S REGULATIONS” -available at https://jamespmurphymd.com/2015/02/13/pathway-to-partnership

indiana

Let’s not forget Indiana. In December 2013 emergency regulations in the Hoosier state were enacted. These were updated and filed as permanent regulations on October 7, 2014. Indiana’s permanent pain regulations apply when any of the following conditions are met:

  1. DOSE & DURATION >15 MED for >3 months

DAILY MED (“morphine equivalent dose”) greater than FIFTEEN for DURATION of more than three consecutive months

Or…

  1. QUANTITY & DURATION >60 pills for >3 months

More than SIXTY opioid pills per month for DURATION of more than THREE consecutive months

Or…

  1. PATCHES > 3 months

Any opioid skin patches (e.g., fentanyl or buprenorphine), regardless of the dose or quantity, for DURATION of more than THREE consecutive months

Or…

  1. Hydrocodone-Only Extended Release

Any hydrocodone-only extended release medication that is NOT in an “abuse deterrent” form, regardless of the DOSE, QUANTITY or DURATION

Or…

  1. TRAMADOL (My advice) >150 mgm for >3 months

Actual language in the regulations state: “If the patient’s tramadol dose reaches a morphine equivalent dose of more than sixty (60) milligrams per day for more than three (3) consecutive months.”

This tramadol dose limit seems to be overly generous. My advice: Since 150 mgm of tramadol is equivalent to a FIFTEEN (15) MED, I believe it is more consistent with the other Indiana opioid dosage limits to consider TRAMADOL greater than 150 mgm/day for more than THREE consecutive months as the dosage limit congruent with other opioid dosage limits.

Reference: The online opioid calculator from GlobalRPH http://www.globalrph.com/narcoticonv.htm

For more detail please review: THE CHRONIC PAIN PATIENT’S GUIDE TO INDIANA’S REGULATONS” -available at https://jamespmurphymd.com/2015/03/29/pathway-to-partnership-part-ii-in

 

Indiana Physicians have DRIVE

When these thresholds are met, Indiana physicians must DRIVE

  • DRAMATIC at the start;
  • REVIEW the plan, REVISE the plan & REFER if the morphine equivalent dose is greater than 60 mg/day;
  • INSPECT at least annually;
  • VISIT face-to-face with the patient at least every 4 months; and
  • EXAMINE a drug screen if there is any indication.

Drug screening takes up a significant portion of Indiana’s regulations. The regulations actually list eighteen “factors” to consider. But the bottom line is that a drug screen (with lab confirmation) shall be ordered: “At any time the physician determines that it is medically necessary…(for any) factor the physician believes is relevant to making an informed professional judgment about the medical necessity of a prescription.”

 Indiana Physicians are DRAMATIC

At the initial evaluation a Hoosier physician must be DRAMATIC

         Diagnosis (establish a “working diagnosis” of the painful condition)

         Records obtained (a diligent effort made to obtain & review)

         Assessment of pain level

        Mental health (and substance abuse) screening

         Activity (functional) goals need to be established

         Tests should be ordered, if indicated

          Instead of opioids, use non-opioid options first

C          Conduct a focused history and physical

 

Both states emphasize the importance of treatment agreements, informed consent, and patient education. These subjects, along with helpful examples are presented in my article: “Are We In Agreement?” -available for review and download at: https://jamespmurphymd.com/2014/02/19/are-we-in-agreement

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Regardless of one’s locale, treating pain with controlled substances can be dramatic. I’m reminded of a scene from the movie “The Music Man,” where Professor Harold Hill warned the people of River City:

prof

Either you’re closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge, or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool hall in your community.

Well my friends, the same emotional message is often said of physicians who treat pain. This “mass-staria” can be lessened by utilizing REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies). REMS has been promulgated by the FDA with the goal of decreasing the risk associated with some risky drugs – especially the opioids.

The yin and yang of REMS is education and monitoring. The informed consent, patient agreement, and educational points together serve as a foundation for a medical practice’s effective REMS program.

Two prime examples of efforts to educate prescribers are (a) the OPIOID course sponsored by the Greater Louisville Medical Society and (b) the First Do No Harm Providers Guide from Indiana’s Prescription Drug Abuse Taskforce.

opioid logo

no harm

When both prescriber and patient understand the risks and watch for the telltale signs, early intervention can keep you out of trouble, despite what the Harold Hills of the world might say.

In my experience, most people will do the right thing if they know what the right thing is. President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War policy with the Soviet Union was to “trust but verify.” When you give someone a reputation to live up to, they are positively motivated to deserve that reputation – and deserve that trust. The various measures prescribers take to verify proper use of pain medications provide boundaries that can guide and comfort all parties involved. Beyond the rules, regulations, and guidelines that make up these boundaries, lies the indisputable truth that physicians have an obligation to treat suffering. It’s our calling.

Hess obit

I’m reminded of these words from our departed colleague, Dr. Patrick Hess:

 

All physicians are artists,

not always in disguise.

Our way of looking at a patient,

allowing our minds to roam,

all over those perceptions of our previous life,

often forgotten,

to scan these memories,

and pull something from our unconscious mind,

all with the purpose of creating something,

something to help the patient.

This creation is,

itself,

a work of art.

 

When I decided to include this poem in my lecture presentation, I really had no inkling that Patrick Hess was Dr. Wolfe’s “oldest friend.” Nor was I aware Dr. Wolfe’s first love was journalism, or that he was the “bright” nephew of his beloved uncle, famed novelist Thomas Wolfe. I only knew that there was a message of conviction, hope, and inspiration that needed to be heard. I would like to think that these three kindred spirits were in attendance and that they approved of my message. And I would like to think that you will not merely approve, but will take action so that the dream of pain care, enough to cope, devoid of drug abuse, can be realized.

kel in surf

 

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This summary is my own opinion and is not legal advice. Each facility and physician should consult its own legal counsel for advice and guidance.

Ya Got Trouble !

11 drugs lik cocaine ladies

At the intersection of emotionally charged trains of thought, lies the potential for hyperbole, hysteria, and high drama. Nowhere is this more evident than in our nation’s debate over the utility of prescription pain drugs. Both sides offer sobering statistics. We cringe hearing that more people die from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle accidents. Then in the next breath we’re saddened by the news now one hundred million Americans suffer from chronic pain. This all may be true, yet still I’m reminded of what Mark Twain wrote, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Unfortunately, efforts at finding truth can sometimes become sidetracked by blowhards with hidden agendas.

2 stay here  second one

Twain was a fan of satire, so in that spirit I would like to offer my concept of how The Music Man’s dashing huckster “Professor” Harold Hill might have taken on the pain debate. In the movie, this self-proclaimed music teacher/instrument salesman sounded the alarm over “the presence of a pool hall.” Here is what he might have said, had it been a pain clinic instead. Note, if you’ve never seen the musical, I recommend you watch the video clip first.

3 friend either you are

Friend, either you’re closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge, or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pain clinic in your community.

 Well… Ya got trouble, my friends, right here, 
I say, trouble right here in your city.

 Why sure I’m a pain physician, certainly mighty proud to say,  
I’m always mighty proud to say it.

I consider that the hours I spend, needle in my hand, are golden.
Helps you cultivate horse sense, and a cool head, and a keen eye.

 3 g a cool head
Did ya ever try to treat a herniated disk with an epidural steroid shot?

 
But just as I say it takes judgment, brains and maturity 
to place a needle in the spine,
I say that any boob can pull a pad from his pocket.

And I call that sloth, 
the first big step on the road to the depths of deg-ra-da–

I say first, medicinal mar-i-ju-ana, then pills from a bottle.

4 and the next thing you kow 
And the next thing ya know 
your pills are selling for money on a back street route.

And listed on some big out of town KASPER*
showing how they’ve been doctor shoppin’.

Not a wholesome caring place, no! 
But a place where they pay cash right on the spot!

 Like to see some screwed up druggie boy sittin’ in your office?
Make your blood boil? 
Well, I should say. Now friends, let me tell you what I mean.

You got nine – new – pain – regs – that – were passed by the board.**

Regulations that mark the difference between a specialist and a bum, 
with a capital “B” 
and that rhymes with “P” 
and that stands for PAIN!

And all day long that pain clinic bunch will be loitering around, 
I say those addicts will be loitering,
loitering around your up town, middle town, down town too!

 5 here him tell about
Get the pills in their pockets, 
never mind setting functional goals
or the records reviewed
or agreements signed.

 
Never mind taking too many 
so your patients are caught 
with the bottle empty
on a Saturday night,
and that’s trouble.

 
Yes you got lots and lots of trouble.
I’m thinkin’ of the pain pill partiers
old ones, young ones, 
caring not a bit about breaking all the rules.

6 and that stands for pool pointing with crowd 
Ya got trouble, folks! Right here in your city.
Trouble, with a capital “T”
and that rhymes with “P”
and that stands for PAIN!

 Now, I know all you docs have the right kinda patients. 

I’m gonna be perfectly frank.
Would ya like to know what kind of conversation goes on 
while they’re loafing around your halls?

 
They’ll be tryin’ out Oxy, tryin’ out morphine
tryin’ out fentanyl and Zohydro.

And braggin’ all about 
how they’re gonna cover up a bad drug screen with with Clorox.

 8 zyour son and your daughter
One fine night, they leave the clinic, 
headin’ for a chance at the pharmacy.
Desperate men, enabling women! 
Narcotic shameless craving
that’ll make your son and your daughter 
defy every decent societal instinct.

 
 ADDICTION !

 
Friends, the stoner brain is the devil’s playground! Trouble!

 
Oh we got trouble. Right here in your city!
with a capital “T” 
that rhymes with “P” 
and that stands for PAIN!

 
We’ve surely got trouble! Right here in your city.
Gotta figure out a way to treat and not just go insane.

 7 caring not a bit about breakin all the rules

Doctors of this city, heed that warning before it’s too late! 
Watch for the telltale signs of addiction!

 The minute after your patient walks into your office,
does he claim to be paralyzed below the knee?

 10 below the knee
Is there a needle track mark on his index finger? 

 
A dime bag hidden in his butt pack?

Is he starting to visit web sites
like “How to Pass a Whiz test” dot com?

 
Are certain drugs showing up on urine drug screens
Drugs… like cocaine? And… heroin?

 14 the devils tool
Well, if so my friends, ya got trouble, right here in your city!
with a capital “T”
and that rhymes with “C” 
and that ain’t cool.

 
We’ve surely got trouble! Right here in your city! 
Remember that pain clinic doc is a willing fool!

 
Oh, we’ve got trouble! 
We’re in terrible, terrible trouble!
Those pills for the fifteen hundred cash is the devil’s tool.

 
Oh yes we got trouble, trouble, trouble! 
Oh yes we got trouble here, we got big big trouble!

 
With a “T”
Gotta rhyme it with “P”
And that stands for PAIN!

13 is a willing fool

 

*KASPER is the Kentucky All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system

**The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure

 

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Spoiler alert… Professor Harold Hill had nothing against the pool hall. He wasn’t even a music professor. He was a con artist with a hidden agenda. He wanted to make a big score selling band instruments then bolt out of town. In the end though, Harold Hill had a change of heart and found true love.

If we can cool down the hyperbole, hysteria and high drama; if we can look beyond the soaring rhetoric and eye-popping statistics; if we can engage in honest and respectful communication; perhaps we can find meaningful solutions to our nation’s pain medication crisis.

15 last one with statue

Remember my friends,
listen to me,
because I pass this way but once!