Cognitive/behavioral, physical and occupational therapy are very effective for patients with chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, says Afton Hassett, PsyD, associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Medical School.
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Explore This IssueJune 2017
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‘There is not much transparency in what the costs really are, or what the drugs even cost to produce, & that is another part of the issue.’ —Dr. O’Dell
“For behavioral therapy, some insurance plans may allow only a few visits a month. Effective behavioral therapy takes time, but many patients can have a good response, and they can learn skills that will benefit them in the long term,” says Dr. Hassett. “Those skills and their benefits do not go away as they do when someone stops taking a drug. They may learn skills to help them sleep better or how to do daily activities in ways that are safer and less likely to aggravate their pain,” she says.
If patients skip therapy sessions because of high out-of-pocket costs, “we all end up paying more in the long run with hospital costs or someone being out of work due to pain,” says Dr. Hassett. “I think insurance companies are running around chasing the illness or the problem instead of focusing on preventive strategies that can be highly effective.”
Some of Dr. Poddar’s patients must travel six hours to his Bismarck clinic for an appointment and incur costs like fuel, an overnight motel stay, or time off work in addition to their medications, he says.
“Our patients need the best management at the earliest point in their disease that we can provide it. With the right care for our patients, we can control the morbidities that can happen,” Dr. Poddar says. “Ultimately, the cost of delayed treatment is their quality of life. They can’t get that back. Some of our diseases can cause blindness if patients are not treated. You can’t get your eyesight back.”
Susan Bernstein is a freelance medical journalist based in Atlanta.
Rheumatologists say many of their patients struggle to afford everything from generic drugs to insurance copayments for physical therapy. Our patients need the best management at the earliest point in their disease that we can provide it. With the right care for our patients, we can control the morbidities that can happen. Ultimately, the cost of delayed treatment is their quality of life.