Why: Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of the addictive painkillers, a rate that reflects high levels of chronic pain among veterans, particularly those who served in wars, according to federal data. A three-year pilot program at 18 Veterans Affairs medical centers offered veterans the opportunity to reduce reliance on opioids for pain management, but veterans at non-pilot medical centers did not have the same options, were unaware of what was available to them, and did not know how to get answers or take action. We helped a multidisciplinary group of Veterans Health Administration stakeholders understand the veteran perspective on alternative pain management pathways and designed solutions based on our findings.
What: After conducting research virtually with a diverse set of veterans, we developed eight design concepts. Of the concepts, stakeholders selected our design for an interactive brochure, which we then took through three rounds of iterative prototype development and testing with health care providers and patients. Our final design concept succeeded in bridging the gap in knowledge about alternative pain management pathways. Additionally, the brochure complements the work being done in the pilot program and supports the goals of VHA and the CARA Bill, which include moving towards a comprehensive, veteran-centric, biopsychosocial care plan, with complementary and integrative health treatments.