April 10, 2024

- 6 Minutes

Barriers to Better Chronic Pain Care in Canada: Physician Perspectives from Rural and Urban Settings

Kimberley Kaseweter, PhD (UBCO), Nina Gregoire, MA (UBCO), Mark Nazemi, PhD (Thrive Health), Francois Louw, MBChB, CCFP (Bill Nelems Pain and Research Center), & Susan Holtzman, PhD (UBCO)

Chronic pain care in Canada presents a significant challenge, particularly for physicians who bear the responsibility of managing this complex issue. The burden on primary care providers, coupled with limited access to pain specialists, creates obstacles impacting urban and rural communities. In a recent study conducted in British Columbia, we aimed to delve into the barriers physicians face when delivering chronic pain care and sought to understand whether these challenges differed between urban and rural settings.


To gain insights into this issue, a study was conducted involving 100 physicians practicing in BC, Canada, who were actively involved in treating chronic pain. Through a brief online survey, various aspects were explored, including demographic and practice characteristics, as well as perceived barriers to providing effective chronic pain management.

Key Findings:

The survey revealed that two of the top barriers, regardless of their practice location (urban or rural) were related to access to community resources and interdisciplinary support for pain management and comorbid mental health issues. While it was anticipated that rural settings might present unique barriers, the study indicated that these challenges were pervasive across urban and rural environments.

Moreover, despite expressing considerable interest in eHealth for chronic pain management (82%), low adoption rates were observed for several technologies. Specifically, only a small percentage of the sample reported using eHealth for the collection of intake data (21%), patient-reported outcomes (14%), and remote patient monitoring (26%). The most common perceived barriers to implementation were cost, complexity, and unfamiliarity with available options.

Urban vs. Rural Disparities:

Interestingly, physicians in urban settings reported experiencing two of the top barriers to a slightly greater extent, although not significantly. This insight challenges preconceived notions about the distribution of barriers and emphasizes the need for tailored solutions that address the specific needs of physicians in both settings.

Implications for Improved Pain Care:

The study concludes that a deeper understanding of physicians' current needs is crucial for developing targeted solutions that can enhance pain care. By acknowledging and addressing the common and unique barriers faced by physicians, we can work towards more effective, accessible, and patient-centric chronic pain management strategies.

In summary, this research sheds light on the intricate challenges physicians encounter in providing chronic pain care and underscores the importance of collaborative efforts to overcome these barriers and improve the overall landscape of pain management in healthcare.

To read more on this research from the clinical and research team at Thrive Health, follow this link and download the complete PDF.