Joint Commission introduces new pain management standards

The Joint Commission announced it is revising its pain assessment and management standards for behavioral health care, home care, and nursing care, according to a recent press release. The updates will be effective July 1, 2019.

The agency, which accredits more than 21,000 U.S. healthcare organizations and programs, said the program-specific standards follow new and revised pain assessment and management requirements for hospitals, ambulatory health care organizations, critical access hospitals, and office-based surgery practices that The Joint Commission introduced earlier this year.

The healthcare industry as a whole is cracking down on pain care, as hospitals, outpatient care facilities, and providers have been criticized for overuse and misuse of prescription opioids, contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic without considering alternative treatment strategies.  

The updated standards were developed based on a public field review and expert guidance from a technical advisory panel, program-specific expert panels and program-specific standards review panels. They are designed to provide contemporary guidance for pain assessment and management, as well as to strengthen organizations’ practices for pain assessment, treatment, education, and monitoring.

One key change is a requirement that organizations offer practitioner access to prescription drug monitoring program databases, according to the prepublication of the standards, which will be available until June 30, 2019. These databases can be a helpful resource to practitioners in preventing misuse or overuse of prescription drugs, as well as the illegal diversion of medications.

Other new requirements included a call for healthcare organizations to develop pain treatment strategies that include "nonpharmacologic, pharmacologic, or a combination of approaches." This differs from previous guidelines, which states treatment “may” provide such approaches.

This is a big step for integrative professionals who are already offering non-drug pain care options to patients.