What do providers want from a pain screening measure used in daily practice?

Karleen F. Giannitrapani, R. Thomas Day, Azin Azarfar, Sangeeta C. Ahluwalia, Steven Dobscha, Karl A. Lorenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives. We aimed to understand providers' experiences and preferences regarding several brief pain screening measures. Methods. We collected two waves of data for this analysis. Wave one: We conducted nine focus groups with multidisciplinary Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) providers. Wave two: To understand an emergent theme in wave one, we conducted 15 telephone interviews with prescribing providers where we used a semistructured guide comparing screening measures currently used in VA practices. Using content analysis of the wave two interviews, we evaluated providers' perceptions of important aspects of brief pain screening measures and reported emergent themes. Results. Five emergent themes underlie providers' perceptions of the utility of brief pain screening measures: 1) item abstractness: how bounded and concrete a patient's interpretation of an individual item is; 2) item distinctness: belief in the patient's ability to differentiate between the meaning of various items in a pain measure; 3) item anchoring: presence of a description under each response option making the meaning explicit; 4) item look-back period: the period of time over which patients are asked to remember and comment on their pain; 5) parsimony: identifying the shortest and simplest approach possible to acquire desired information. Conclusions. Overly complex or adaptive screening tools may include information that is ultimately not used by providers. Conversely, overly simplistic pain screening tools may omit information that helps providers understand the impact of pain on patients' lives. As pain is nuanced, complex, and subjective, all screening measures exhibit some limitations. No single pain measure serves all chronic pain patients, and specific contexts or settings may warrant additional specific items.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-76
Number of pages9
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • 5th Vital Sign
  • Chronic Pain
  • Provider Perspectives
  • Qualitative Research
  • Routine Pain Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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