Measuring pain care quality in the Veterans Health Administration primary care setting

Stephen L. Luther, Dezon K. Finch, Lina Bouayad, James McCart, Ling Han, Steven K. Dobscha, Melissa Skanderson, Samah J. Fodeh, Bridget Hahm, Allison Lee, Joseph L. Goulet, Cynthia A. Brandt, Robert D. Kerns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT: The lack of a reliable approach to assess quality of pain care hinders quality improvement initiatives. Rule-based natural language processing algorithms were used to extract pain care quality (PCQ) indicators from documents of Veterans Health Administration primary care providers for veterans diagnosed within the past year with musculoskeletal disorders with moderate-to-severe pain intensity across 2 time periods 2013 to 2014 (fiscal year [FY] 2013) and 2017 to 2018 (FY 2017). Patterns of documentation of PCQ indicators for 64,444 veterans and 124,408 unique visits (FY 2013) and 63,427 veterans and 146,507 visits (FY 2017) are described. The most commonly documented PCQ indicators in each cohort were presence of pain, etiology or source, and site of pain (greater than 90% of progress notes), while least commonly documented were sensation, what makes pain better or worse, and pain's impact on function (documented in fewer than 50%). A PCQ indicator score (maximum = 12) was calculated for each visit in FY 2013 (mean = 7.8, SD = 1.9) and FY 2017 (mean = 8.3, SD = 2.3) by adding one point for every indicator documented. Standardized Cronbach alpha for total PCQ scores was 0.74 in the most recent data (FY 2017). The mean PCQ indicator scores across patient characteristics and types of healthcare facilities were highly stable. Estimates of the frequency of documentation of PCQ indicators have face validity and encourage further evaluation of the reliability, validity, and utility of the measure. A reliable measure of PCQ fills an important scientific knowledge and practice gap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e715-e724
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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