Do Weather Changes Affect Veterans’ Outpatient, Pain Management Clinic Attendance?

David Cosio

Abstract


Adherence to appointments has been found to be a strong predictor of successful chronic disease self-management, yet up to 30% of health appointments are missed. Many factors have been found to influence attendance, including not having enough time, transportation issues, lack of childcare, administrative errors, and inclement weather. The current study investigated weather indices as possible factors related to missed appointments among patients who suffer from chronic pain. In a five-year longitudinal study, 911 Veterans participated in a patient pain education program. Attendance was tracked and weather indices were recorded for the day before, the day of, and the day after class. Significant associations were found between attendance and wind-chill for the day of and temperature change for the day after class.  No other weather indices, seasonality, nor education class topic were found to influence attendance in this study. Although pain was not measured directly, findings may offer some support for pain sensitivity as it relates to weather predictability, as attendance for classes was lower when a significant temperature change occurred the day after class. These findings have important clinical implications for Veterans with chronic pain conditions, as weather is often implicated as barrier. We recommend future studies take efforts to measure pain levels, and conduct individual analysis on demographic information, pain history, and mental health history to identify other possible obstacles.


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