Background: Chronic pain education is an essential determinant for optimal chronic pain management. Given that attitudes and preferences are involved in making treatment decisions, identifying which factors are most influential to final year medical students’ and general practitioners’ (GPs) chronic pain management choices is of importance. This study investigates Swedish and Australian students’ preferences with respect to a chronic pain condition, using a best–worst scaling (BWS) experiment, which is designed to rank alternatives.

Methods: BWS, a stated-preference method grounded in random utility theory, was used to explore the importance of factors influencing chronic pain management.

Results: All three cohorts considered the patients’ pain description and previous treatment experience as the most important factors in making treatment decisions, whereas their demographics and voices or facial expressions while describing their pain were considered least important. Factors such as social support, patient preferences and treatment adherence were, however, disregarded by all cohorts in favour of pain assessment factors such as pain ratings, description and history. Swedish medical students and GPs show very high correlation in their choices, although the GPs consider their professional experience as more important compared to the students.

Conclusion: This study suggests that the relative importance of treatment factors is cemented early and thus underline the critical importance of improving pain curricula during undergraduate medical education.


pain management, pain education, best–worst scaling, medical students, general practitioners

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