Promoting an interprofessional approach to chronic pain management in primary care using Project ECHO

Samah Hassan, Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto
Leslie Carlin, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto
Jane Zhao, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network
Paul Taenzer, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Queen’s University
Andrea D. Furlan, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto


Chronic pain is a complex multidimensional condition that requires management with multiple professions’ expertise. Healthcare training programs tend to adhere to curricula within their own profession with very few interactions with other groups. Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) Chronic Pain and Opioid Stewardship is a model for interprofessional education, using tele-mentoring, case-base discussions and clinically focused presentations. The goal is to improve competency and confidence in managing complex cases in primary care. This qualitative study engaged twenty healthcare practitioners from multiple professions who had participated in ECHO in focus group discussions about managing patients with chronic pain, about their reasons for and the effect of participating in Project ECHO Ontario Chronic Pain/Opioid Stewardship, and about their perspectives on interprofessional care. The results show that participating in ECHO resulted in personal and professional benefit, and increased understanding about their own roles and limitations, as well as other healthcare professionals’ roles. The participants described changes in their attitudes toward patients with chronic pain, and their colleagues from other professions. Non-physician participants were more likely to approach physicians to discuss their assessment and diagnosis as well as prescriptions. The interprofessional nature of the program was seen as positive and contributed to perceived changes in practice collaboration. These results show that healthcare professionals from multiple professions expressed mainly positive views of ECHO’s emphasis on interprofessional care, with different professions appreciating different aspects of that approach.