Pain assessments: Are clinicians required to ask patients about pain during every consultation?

Debunking Regulatory Myths-series only

This resource is part of the AMA's Debunking Regulatory Myths series, supporting AMA's practice transformation efforts to provide physicians and their care teams with resources to reduce guesswork and administrative burdens.



Clinical teams are required to ask patients about their level of pain at every visit, regardless of the reason for the visit.

Pain assessments regulatory myth

Are clinicians required to ask patients about pain during every consultation, regardless of the reason for the visit?

In their 2001 original pain standards, the Joint Commission had a requirement that each patient receive a pain assessment. This requirement was eliminated in 2009 from all programs except Behavioral Health Care Accreditation. The current version of the standard for hospitals and programs other than behavioral health states that, “The hospital assesses and manages the patient's pain.” This standard allows organizations to set their own policies regarding which patients should have pain assessed based on the population served and the services delivered. Joint Commission surveyors determine whether such policies have been established, and whether there is evidence that the organization’s own policies are followed.

For more information on the Joint Commission Standards, read The Joint Commission R3 Report on Pain Assessment and Management standards, which became effective January 1, 2018.

The AMA is not aware of any federal or state regulations that recommend or require inquiries about pain at every visit, although we recommend you contact your state medical association to determine whether there are nuances in state law or regulation that may be relevant.

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Disclaimer: The AMA's Debunking Regulatory Myths (DRM) series is intended to convey general information only, based on guidance issued by applicable regulatory agencies, and not to provide legal advice or opinions. The contents within DRM should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.