Pain Management - Screening versus Assessment - PC.01.02.07 EP 1

What is the difference between “screening” vs “assessing” pain and what is the expectation?

Any examples are for illustrative purposes only.

A ‘screening’ is a process for evaluating the possible presence of a problem.  An 'assessment' gathers more detailed information through collection of data, observation, and physical examination. Assessments are completed individuals deemed qualified through education, training, licensure, etc., to conduct such evaluations. Pain assessment tools are generally evidence-based and often include, at a minimum, an evaluation of pain intensity, location, quality, and associated symptoms. An accurate pain screening and assessment is the foundation on which an individualized, effective pain management plan is developed.

For example, a pain 'screening' may be used to determine if the patient has pain or not. If the patient answers “yes”, a comprehensive pain assessment would be indicated.  If the patient answers “no” no further pain assessment would be expected, unless required by organizational policy. 

Organizations are responsible for ensuring that appropriate screening and assessment tools are readily available and used appropriately. The tools required to adequately assess pain may differ depending on a patient’s age, condition, and ability to understand and should be evidence-based. For example, adult intensive care unit (ICU) patients who are unable to self-report and pediatric patients require the use of alternative assessment tools. Hospitals are required to have defined criteria that they will use to screen, assess and reassess pain that are consistent with the patient’s age, condition, and ability to understand. Organizations determine where this criteria is located and any documentation requirements when such screenings or assessments are completed.

R3 Report: Pain assessment and management standards for hospitals
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Last updated on July 09, 2020
Manual: Hospital and Hospital Clinics
Chapter: Provision of Care Treatment and Services PC

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