Headache patients wait years before seeing specialists
PHILADELPHIA — Patients with headaches may seek medical help for years before being referred to a headache specialist or tertiary care clinic by their primary care physician, according to a study presented at the American Headache Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting.
“Headache disorders are one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting up to 72 million Americans, and can be both disabling and costly,” Jason Lin, MD, of the Stanford Headache Clinic, and colleagues wrote in an abstract. “According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the total estimated annual cost of migraine in the United States is $78 billion, including indirect costs of lost productivity.”
Lin and colleagues used data from 300 self-administered paper surveys completed by patients who sought care at the Stanford Headache Clinic, a tertiary headache center, between July 2018 at January 2019.
Researchers found that patients had been seeking medical attention for headaches for approximately 6 years and 3.5 months before being seen at the clinic. Survey results showed that patients who were seen by a PCP waited about 3 years and 6.8 months before being referred to a specialist.
On average, survey respondents were seen by 2.58 specialists for headache and underwent 2.53 imaging studies or procedures for headaches. Respondents had tried seven different prescription medications to treat their headaches.
“The data suggests a need for increased awareness among patients and primary care physicians for earlier referral to a tertiary headache center to improve quality of care,” Lin and colleagues wrote. – by Erin Michael
Lin J, et al. A surveillance of the tortuous path from primary care to headache specialist. Presented at: American Headache Society Annual Scientific Meeting; July 11-14, 2019; Philadelphia.
Disclosures: Healio Primary Care was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.