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Image: MGH Blog - Pain Management

Award-winning pain management project focuses on patient goals and lowering costs

New protocol designed with input from Methodist Hospital patient partners

Mark Clifford says his cancer – from diagnosis, through treatment and finally being cancer-free – was “life changing.” His illness forced him to stop working so he could focus on getting well. Mark (pictured above) wanted to beat the cancer and manage his pain. He also had to watch his out-of-pocket costs.

Mark learned about a study at the Frauenshuh Cancer Center led by cancer expert Dylan Zylla, MD The 18-month project was created with input from our patient partners. It involved identifying each patient’s goals for managing pain. Staff helped improve patient knowledge of opioids, a type of narcotic pain medicine. Clinicians learned about opioid costs and how they compared with other drugs. Medicines were chosen for patients based on their goals, possible side effects and how well they worked.

The plan helped Mark manage his pain within his expectations. His medicines were effective, caused fewer side effects and cost less than other common drugs.

Now the study is getting broad attention. The Association of Community Cancer Centers named it the winner of the 2016 Innovator’s Award and the 2017 Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Eureka! Innovation Award.


Although Mark is cancer-free, his journey goes forward. He stays close to Methodist Hospital by working as a volunteer one day a week. He decided to make a big career change. Inspired by the support he has received, he plans to earn a degree in social work.

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