Faculty communication knowledge, attitudes, and skills around chronic non-malignant pain improve with online training

Anna K. Donovan*, Gordon J. Wood, Doris M. Rubio, Hollis D. Day, Carla L. Spagnoletti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective. Many physicians struggle to communicate with patients with chronic, non-malignant pain (CNMP). Through the use of a Web module, the authors aimed to improve faculty participants' communication skills knowledge and confidence, use of skills in clinical practice, and actual communication skills. Subjects. The module was implemented for faculty development among clinician-educators with university faculty appointments, outpatient clinical practices, and teaching roles. Methods. Participants completed the Collaborative Opioid Prescribing Education Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (COPE-REMS® ) module, a free Web module designed to improve provider communication around opioid prescribing. Main study outcomes were improvements in CNMP communication knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Skills were assessed by comparing a subset of participants' Observed Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) performance before and after the curriculum. Results. Sixty-two percent of eligible participants completed the curriculum in 2013. Knowledgebased test scores improved with curriculum completion (75% vs. 90%; P < 0.001). Using a 5-point Likert-type scale, participants reported improved comfort in managing patients with CNMP both immediately post-curriculum and at 6 months (3.6 pre vs. 4.0 post vs. 4.1 at 6 months; P=0.02), as well as improvements in prescribing opioids (3.3 vs. 3.8 vs. 3.9, P=0.01) and conducting conversations about discontinuing opioids (2.8 vs. 3.5 vs. 3.9, P < 0.001). Additionally, CNMP-specific communication skills on the OSCE improved after the curriculum (mean 67% vs. 79%, P=0.03). Conclusions. Experienced clinician-educators improved their communication knowledge, attitudes, and skills in managing patients with CNMP after implementation of this curriculum. The improvements in attitudes were sustained at six months. A Webbased curriculum such as COPE-REMS® may be useful for other programs seeking improvement in faculty communication with patients who have CNMP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1985-1992
Number of pages8
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2016


  • Chronic pain
  • Continuing education
  • Opioids
  • Pain management
  • Pain training programs
  • Primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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