Pain Management for Military Families and Retirees Requires Cultural Understanding

September is Pain Awareness Month, a time to promote better understanding of pain and pain management issues.  While retired military populations are likely to endure substantial pain after service and many may require physical therapy, military retirees are less likely than other populations to seek help for managing aches and pains.

A study by researchers at the University at Buffaloconcluded that health care provider networks serving military families and retirees should have a fundamental understanding of military culture in order to provide effective care and improve patients’ health outcomes.  A unique quality identified in the research about this population is that military family members and veterans often “don’t complain about little things” and may feel unsupported and underappreciated by those providing them care.  The University of Buffalo researchers found that veterans and military families often feel that health care providers minimize their concerns or do not communicate clearly with them.

This situation underscores how critical it is for care teams to know how patients’ military service may impact their care utilization, including their willingness to seek treatment for pain.  The US Family Health Plan provider organizations have this cultural understanding, and it has been incorporated into their provision of quality health care to nearly 150,000 military family members and retirees across the country for more than 30 years.

The six member organizations of the US Family Health Plan have pain management programs which specialize in restoring quality of life to patients by providing relief for chronic pain.  Doctors are trained to approach patients with respect and dignity which helps patients feel comfortable and supported.  Dr. Steven Kravet, MD, MBA – an internal medicine doctor and president of Johns Hopkins Community Physicians– explains the nuances of providing care to the military community:

“We try to take care of patients based on their specific needs,” Dr. Kravet said.  “Some of the most pressing needs around military healthcare are advances in trauma care, and Johns Hopkins and the US Family Health Plan are trying to foster relationships to study the science of trauma.  We’ve done a lot of work on trauma and dynamics around military families, and then of course we offer world-class care from a specialty perspective.”

Knowing who our members are and understanding their needs allows the US Family Health Plan provider organizations to clearly communicate about care and treatment options for pain. This keeps our members among the most satisfied patients in the country and helps them achieve better health outcomes.