Assist. prof. Martin Rakusa, MD, PhD; Co-chair SP Pain
This year’s Annual Pain Forum was organised online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the meeting, the past president, prof. Bart Morlion, welcomed delegates from the participating organisations. He also introduced the current president, prof. Fuellen Brona who briefly presented her work and covered the main points concerning the current European Federation of International Association for the Study of Pain Chapters (EFIC )office.
The third speaker was prof. Toelle Thomas. He briefly described past activities of the Pain Forum and especially pointed to the tremendous support of prof. Vodusek (EAN). One of the main goals of the Pain Forum is meeting with politicians and decision-makers.
The first point on the agenda was the opioids position paper. Prof. Volwes reviewed the content and presented the outcomes. He stressed good cooperation between members of the task force. After the North American opioid crisis, numerous guidelines were published, which do not recommend the use of the opioids for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain. However, in Europe, only a few guidelines were published. In 2017, the EFIC published a paper in which they did not differentiate between cancer and non-cancer pain. For that reason, EFIC board initiated the task force (TF) and invited members of the Pain Forum and Pain Alliance Europe. Members of the TF were physicians of different specialities, nurses, physiotherapists, and clinical psychologists. The first draft of the position paper was ready after seven Delphi rounds and a virtual conference. An initial draft was sent to five external reviewers. After revision and re-voting, the document was sent for a public discussion. The authors hope that the paper will be published within the next few months in the European Journal of Pain. Several societies have already endorsed this paper, including the EAN.
After the break, we continued with the question: »How are pain forum members responding to COVID-19?«. In November, EFIC will organise the largest pain education meeting in 2020, the “Virtual Pain Education Summit”. Topics at the event will cover pain medicine, physiotherapy, psychology and nursing, interprofessional sessions and topical lectures. Other delegates also presented their experience with COVID-19. They were informed about the EAN annual congress, which took place virtually in 2020, activities of the EANcore COVID-19 task force, EAN papers published or in press at that time, work of the Scientific Panels regarding COVID-19, and COVID-19 related news , published on the EAN website. Delegates from nurses and physiotherapy organisations also mentioned online training resources, available to their members.
Digital medicine may play a crucial role during COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Toelle presented Germany’s experience with digital medicine. In the past, doctors declined digital patients charts. However, they started a project in which they included 80 doctors, and patients with low back pain. They used a special application with clear protocols for telemedicine. At this point, telemedicine included multimodal treatment programmes with education, physiotherapy and mindfulness training. Experiences were positive, and the programme worked well. The German Medical Association, together with the German Pain Society, performed two surveys. An interesting finding was that patients are waiting for telemedicine, while doctors still have concerns.
Members of the Pain Forum prepared joint workshops at the annual meetings. The EAN was brought forward as an example of excellent collaboration. Delegates from the EFIC invited other organisations and societies to propose workshops for the EFIC annual meeting in April 2022 in the area of their expertise.
For the last point on the agenda, delegates from EFIC presented their curricula on pain. The most relevant curriculum for the physicians is »Curricula in pain medicine«, a multidisciplinary enterprise, still under development, expected to be released in 2022. This was a successful meeting, conducted via a virtual platform. There was plenty of time for discussion and to exchange ideas. However, we hope that pandemic will be over soon and the next annual meeting could be in person.