SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. – A new program at the University of Vermont Medical Center is aimed at providing more treatment options for people living with chronic pain, a condition that is often treated with prescription drugs.

The Partners Aligned in Transformative Healing (PATH) program, created with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, is an eight-week outpatient program that allows patients to access a wide variety of treatment options for one fixed price.

“We know medications and opiates have limited success in terms of relieving pain, and they can also be risky for folks,” said Dr. Jon Porter, Medical Director of UVMMC’s Comprehensive Pain Program. “As a field, we have not had tremendous success in helping people find more comfort or be more functional.”

Therapies like yoga, acupuncture, culinary medicine and group support can be costly for Vermonters living with chronic pain, but Dr. Porter hopes the bundled payment model of the PATH program will allow more people to access those services.

“It’s not just an individual coming into a doctor’s office one-on-one and getting a prescription, it’s a group of folks looking at somebody’s situation and saying ‘Yeah, from my standpoint as an acupuncturist or a Reiki master, I think this might be helpful, and it’s a team approach that enlists lots of different forms of wisdom.”

Dr. Jon Porter, Medical Director, UVM Medical Center Comprehensive Pain Program

The hope is that all of these different treatment options can be used together long-term in lieu of prescriptions to maintain a higher quality of life for those suffering from chronic pain. Josh Plavin, Chief Medical Officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, said the formula could be more widespread if it’s successful.

“We’re trying to collaborate more closely and focus on paying for value, paying for outcomes, rather than paying for services,” Plavin said. “The idea with a pilot like this is trial it, prove its worth, and then scale it across the State.”

Only a few similar programs exist in the U.S., and many of them aren’t covered by insurance. The program opens to eligible Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont members by physician referral beginning in mid-June.