Beth Potter, MD and Audra Wagaman, PsyD

At the Wingra Clinic, Beth Potter, MD, (above, left) and Access Community Health Centers behavioral health fellow Audra Wagaman, PsyD, piloted a group visit program to help patients with chronic pain maximize function and minimize suffering.

A recent pilot program at Access Community Health Centers Wingra Family Medical Center examined the feasibility of group visits for patients who have chronic pain.

Led by the UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health’s (DFMCH) Beth Potter, MD, and Access behavioral health fellow Audra Wagaman, PsyD, the pilot consisted of six 90-minute group sessions held from January through March.

The program aimed to help patients maximize function and minimize suffering. Participants learned about sleep hygiene, coping with stress, nutrition, communication, social support and alternative approaches to pain management (such as acupuncture).

In each session, they also answered “pain check-in” questions, shared their own pain management strategies, and learned movement techniques and mindfulness meditation.

Building on Established Trust and Community

Dr. Potter based the program on one previously developed by Joseph Eichenseher, MD, at Access’ Joyce & Marshall Erdman Clinic.

Wingra faculty and residents identified patients who might benefit from the program, and recruited them through fliers and follow-up phone calls.

Eight to 10 patients attended each session, which Dr. Potter considered an excellent turnout for a pilot. Although the program was open to patients from Wingra or any Access clinic, many participants were patients of Dr. Potter. She noted that all participants had existing relationships with Access providers and entered the program with a high of level of trust.

She added that because the clinic directly serves the surrounding neighborhood, many of the participants knew each other and the sessions reflected the feel of Wingra’s diverse community.

“We view this pilot as a success due to the great turnout,” noted Dr. Potter. “In the future, we would like to study the impact of the program on the physical function and well-being of our patients.”

In the future, Dr. Potter would like to offer the program two times per year, and include DFMCH residents as co-teachers.

To learn more about the pilot, contact Dr. Potter.

Published: April 2017