Better Care for Patients with Chronic Pain

Ontario Giving Health Care Providers More Tools to Help Chronic Pain Patients

Ontario is improving care for patients suffering from chronic pain with new initiatives to ensure they receive appropriate treatment, diagnostic testing and medication.

The province is working with the University Health Network on two initiatives that will help primary care providers care for chronic pain sufferers. This includes:

  • Connecting chronic pain specialists with primary care providers across the province through the Extensions of Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) project. The first of its kind in Canada, ECHO will use videoconferencing to provide local providers with training and advice on the best care methods for chronic pain patients.
  • Expanding and updating guidelines for MRI and CT scans to reflect the most current, evidence-based best practices. The guidelines will provide physicians with the most appropriate alternatives, such as ultrasound and radiography, to help improve access to diagnostic imaging equipment for chronic pain patients who benefit most from them.
Ontario also continues to use data from the Narcotics Monitoring System to monitor opioid usage trends and make recommendations to health care providers on appropriate prescribing. Where appropriate, this data is also being shared with regulatory colleges and law enforcement authorities to ensure medications are being used appropriately.

Giving primary care providers and pharmacists the tools to effectively treat and manage patients with chronic pain supports Ontario's Action Plan for Health Care, ensuring patients get the right care, at the right time and in the right place. It is also part of the government's economic plan that is creating jobs for today and tomorrow by focusing on Ontario's greatest strengths -- its people and strategic partnerships.


" Chronic pain is a serious condition that can be debilitating and difficult to manage – which is why we need to do more to help chronic pain patients receive care. Our government is helping by connecting pain specialists with frontline providers so that chronic pain patients receive the best and most appropriate treatment, where and when they need it."
- Deb Matthews Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

" Chronic pain can cause sleeplessness, poor self-esteem, emotional distress and vocational uncertainty. This ground-breaking program will give physicians the tools and knowledge to safely prescribe medication and effectively monitor a patient’s progress."
- Dr. Bob Bell President and CEO, University Health Network

" Patients with chronic pain often wait months to be assessed by an interprofessional pain team. In most cases, specialists and family physicians do not communicate directly about what care plan is best for the patient. ECHO will enable a community of practice between primary care and specialists to empower clinicians in underserved areas to provide the best care for their patients with chronic pain – the same care as they would receive by an interprofessional team at an academic centre."
- Dr. Andrea Furlan Scientist, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network

" Frontline primary care providers in North West Ontario are very excited by the opportunity to better support patients struggling with chronic pain with the ECHO program. Our experienced interprofessional chronic pain team at St. Joseph's Care Group has been working to increase our accessibility and support across the region and this is an ideal model to achieve this end. The ECHO model has transformed primary care of chronic disease in the communities it has touched. We look forward to participating in such a key service."
- Dr. Bryan MacLeod Pain Consultant, Thunder Bay

" In the past, it would take us at least one year until a patient could be seen by specialists. Most cases would come back with the diagnosis of chronic pain syndrome but no clear guidelines to help us to properly manage the patient’s pain. The Echo project has helped us to get a full assessment of each individual case in a multidisciplinary approach and guide us on the management and further treatment plan for each case. We have learned lots about chronic pain and the most appropriate alternatives to improve the pain and its management. Our team is thrilled to have the ECHO team coaching us all the way and the patients are also relieved by finally understanding what their condition is."
- Dr. Auri Bruno-Petrina Iroquois Falls Family Health Team


  • One in five Ontarians suffer from moderate to severe chronic pain daily or most days of the week.
  • The government is providing more than $1.33 million over three years to the University Health Network to administer the ECHO Ontario demonstration project to three Local Health Integration Networks (Central, Central East and North West).
  • The government is providing the University Health Network $664,000 to expand and sustain the development of the provincial referral guidelines for MRIs, CTs and other diagnostic imaging.
  • Through the Narcotics Monitoring System, the government is monitoring inappropriate narcotic prescribing. Nine cases of abuse and double doctoring have been identified and referred to the Ontario Provincial Police.


  • Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care
  • Narcotics Monitoring System
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