Chronic Back Pain in America 2015:
Survey Results

Patients Describe Attitudes of Their Spine Doctors, Office and Medical Staffs

Compassionate, serious, rushed, dismissive?

Earlier in 2015, SpineUniverse published its second survey, Chronic Back Pain in America 2015. In reporting the results of the survey, SpineUniverse thought medical professionals and patients would find the outcomes interesting. This article reveals how patients evaluated particular attitudes their doctors/surgeons and staff in 4 areas: compassionate, serious, rushed, and/or dismissive.

Compassion and related wordsPhysicians, surgeons and their staff members were viewed by most patients who participated in the Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey as being compassionate.

Near the beginning of the survey, SpineUniverse asked the 606 survey takers what type of spine specialist or medical professional they had consulted about their chronic neck, mid back, low back and/or sacral pain. See Table 1 (below).

Doctors chronic back pain patients consulted, results of Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey

In Table 1A (below), patients chose the word(s) that best described the attitudes of the doctor or health care provider, and his/her office staff and medical staff . Survey takers were allowed to select more than one attitude for each category.

Patient-reported attitudes of doctors, office and medical staff, results of Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey

Chronic Neck Pain Survey Section
Of the 294 people who indicated they have chronic neck pain, the spine specialists seen for a diagnosis included: neurosurgeon (28%, n=81), orthopaedic surgeon (26%, n=75), pain management specialist (15%, n=43), and primary care physician (13%, n=38). Besides providing a patient with a diagnosis, some of these doctors may have ordered or referred the patient to another provider for nonoperative treatment.

Patients describe their neck pain doctors, results of the Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey

The types of surgeons who primarily recommended neck surgery in 112 patients surveyed, included: neurosurgeon (55%, n=61), orthopaedic spine surgeon (29%, n=32), orthopaedic surgeon (10%, n=11), and pain management specialist (6%, n=7).

Patients describe attitudes of neck surgeon, office and medical staff, results of Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey

Chronic Mid Back Pain Survey Section
A total of 194 people indicated they have had chronic thoracic back pain for 3 months or longer. In this group, the physicians seen for a diagnosis included: orthopaedic surgeon (21%, n=42), neurosurgeon (221%, n=41), pain management specialist (18%, n=34), and primary care physician (14%, n=27). Patients not only consulted with these doctors for an accurate diagnosis, but may have been referred to a different specialist for nonsurgical treatment.

Patients report on attitudes of mid back pain doctors, office and medical staff, Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey

What type of physicians recommended a thoracic spine surgery or procedure?
According the 26 patients, 42% (n=11) were neurosurgeons followed by: orthopaedic spine surgeon (23%, n=6), orthopaedic surgeon (19%, n=5), and pain management specialist (12%, n=3). Table 3A (below) summarizes how patients viewed the attitudes of their physician, office and medical staff members in this section of the survey.

Mid back surgeon attitudes, results of Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 patient survey

Chronic Low Back/Sacral Pain Survey Section
There were 582 people who participated in this section of the survey. “Orthopaedic surgeon” was chosen by the majority of patients (33%, n=191). This choice was followed by neurosurgeon (27%, n=159), pain management specialist (16%, 91), primary care physician (11%, n=64), physiatrist (4%, n=25), chiropractor (3%, n=16). Besides performing a physical and neurological examination, and ordering imaging tests, these physicians may have recommended nonoperative care.

The data in Table 4 (below) shows how patients viewed their physician, and his/her office and medical staff.

Attitudes of low back doctor, office and staff, results of the Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey

Next, patients who received a surgical recommendation evaluated their surgeon (or pain management specialist), as well as his/her office and medical staffs. Here, 257 patients participated. What type of surgeon did these patients consult with? Neurosurgeons (42%, n=108) made up the majority followed by orthopaedic spine surgeons (35%, n=89), pain management specialists (11%, n=27), and orthopaedic surgeons (10%, n=26).

Table 4A (below) summarizes how 184 patients viewed the attitudes of their lumbar/sacral surgeon, office and medical staff members.

Surgeon's attitudes as reported by patients, results of Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey
So what can we learn from these statistics?
Overall, more than 50% of patients evaluated their doctor, surgeon, and office and medical staffs as compassionate. Roughly 30% to 40% assessed their provider as “serious.” That doesn’t necessary mean serious is bad—possibly it is perceived a reflection of the provider’s sincere concern for the patient and their medical situation.

Overall, the number of patients who rated their doctors, surgeons, and staff members as “rushed” and/or “dismissive” is small, but concerning. No patient wants to feel undervalued by their doctor, nurse, or receptionist.

To learn about Dr. Eidelson’s practice, click here.

Updated on: 10/18/16
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Who Patients Trust to Diagnose and Treat Chronic Back Pain

SpineUniverse asked people who reported having chronic spine-related pain for at least 3 months specific questions about this topic.
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