Feasibility of quantitative pain assessment in outpatient oncology practice

D. J. Rhodes, R. C. Koshy, W. C. Waterfield, A. W. Wu, S. A. Grossman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Purpose: Although physicians view failure to assess pain systematically as the most important barrier to outpatient cancer pain management, little is known about pain assessment in this setting. We sought to determine whether pain is routinely assessed and whether routine quantitative pain assessment is feasible in a busy outpatient oncology practice. Patients and Methods: We conducted a pre- and postintervention chart review of 520 randomly selected medical and radiation oncology patient visits at a community hospital-based private outpatient practice. The intervention consisted of training health assistants (HAs) to measure and document patient pain scores by using a visual analog scale. The main outcome measures included HA documentation of patient pain scores, quantitative and qualitative mention of pain in the physician note, and analgesic treatment before and after the intervention. Results: After the intervention, HA documentation of pain scores increased from 1% to 75.6% (P < .0001). Physician documentation increased from 0% to 4.8% for quantitative documentation (P < .01), and from 60.0% to 68.3% for qualitative documentation (not significant). Of all the patients, 23.1% reported significant pain. Subgroups with greater pain included patients actively receiving radiation treatments and patients with lung cancer. Of patients with significant pain, 28.2% had no mention of pain in the physician note and 47.9% had no documented analgesic treatment. Conclusion: Quantitative pain assessment was virtually absent before our intervention but easily implemented and sustained in a busy outpatient oncology practice. Pain score collection identified a high prevalence of pain, patient subgroups at risk for pain, and a significant proportion of patients with pain that was neither evaluated nor treated by their oncologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-508
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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