Michael Von Korff, ScD
Research interests and experience
- Chronic illness management: disability; health care use; disease management; symptom management; physical-mental comorbidity
- Chronic pain: back pain; headache; temporomandibular disorders
- Mental health: depression; depression and chronic disease comorbidity
- Health services & economics: health care use
- Behavior change: illness behavior
Michael Von Korff has carried out groundbreaking research on the management and outcomes of chronic pain, depression, and other illnesses in primary care settings. His work as an epidemiologist and health services researcher focuses on understanding how patients adapt to chronic illnesses associated with pain and psychological distress, including how they use health care services and cope with illness in their daily lives.
Dr. Von Korff has co-led major randomized trials examining various approaches to chronic illness management in primary care, including collaborative care for depression and interventions to improve self-care of chronic-recurrent back pain. A major focus throughout his career has been studying mental-physical comorbidity and how patients manage distressing physical symptoms. This research has included a series of longitudinal studies of disability and health care use among primary care patients with depression, back pain, headache, or other chronic pain conditions. More recently, his research has focused on trends and risks of long-term prescription of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.
In January 2010, Dr. Von Korff and colleagues published the first-ever study on overdose risk by dose among patients receiving prescribed opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. That study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, linked higher risk of fatal and nonfatal overdose to higher daily dose prescribed. His research also showed that Group Health, like other health systems nationwide, had been prescribing more opioids for chronic non-cancer pain over time—a twofold increase from 1997 to 2005.
Recognizing the importance of provider education, Group Health's Chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Randi Beck, MD, partnered with Dr. Von Korff to develop an online clinician education course explaining Group Health's new guidelines on opioid prescribing. Funded by a Partnership for Innovation grant from the Group Health Foundation, the course aims to help primary care providers implement recommended practice changes. The work was also funded by grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Aging.
Dr. Von Korff has published more than 270 papers in peer-reviewed journals on mental health, pain, and chronic illness. In 1997, he was selected as a fellow of AcademyHealth and of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. In 2002, the Institute for Scientific Information recognized him as one of the nation's most highly cited scientists in psychiatry and behavioral sciences. He has served as an advisor to major World Health Organization initiatives related to disability and mental health. He also served as GHRI's Associate Director for Research from 1992 to 1996 and again from 1999 to 2005.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- National Institute on Aging
- Changing Chronic Pain Management & Use of Opioids (online clinician education program)
- Society of Behavioral Medicine
Gensichen J, Petersen JJ, Von Korff M, Heider D, Baron S, Konig J, Freytag A, Krauth C, Gerlach FM, Konig HH. Cost-effectiveness of depression case management in small practices. Br J Psychiatry. 2013 Apr 11. [Epub ahead of print].
Thielke SM, Turner JA, Shortreed SM, Saunders K, LeResche L, Campbell CI, Weisner CC, Von Korff MV. Do patient-perceived pros and cons of opioids predict sustained higher-dose use? Clin J Pain. 2013 Mar 26 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed
Davydow DS, Katon WJ, Lin EH, Ciechanowski P, Ludman E, Oliver M, Von Korff M. Depression and risk of hospitalizations for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions in patients with diabetes. J Gen Intern Med. 2013 Jan 17 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed
Ludman EJ, Peterson D, Katon WJ, Lin EH, Von Korff M, Ciechanowski P, Young B, Gensichen J. Improving confidence for self care in patients with depression and chronic illnesses. Behav Med. 2013;39(1):1-6. doi: 10.1080/08964289.2012.708682. PubMed
Merrill JO, Von Korff M, Banta-Green CJ, Sullivan MD, Saunders KW, Campbell CI, Weisner C. Prescribed opioid difficulties, depression and opioid dose among chronic opioid therapy patients. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2012;34(6):581-7. PubMed
Howe CQ, Sullivan MD, Saunders KW, Merrill JO, Banta-Green CJ, Weisner C, Campbell CI, Von Korff M. Depression and ambivalence toward chronic opioid therapy for chronic noncancer pain. Clin J Pain. 2012 Sep;28(7):561-6. PubMed
Suri P, Saunders KW, Von Korff M. Prevalence and characteristics of flare-ups of chronic nonspecific back pain in primary care: a telephone survey. Clin J Pain. 2012 Sep;28(7):573-80. PubMed
Boudreau DM, Wirtz H, Von Korff M, Catz SL, St John J, Stang PE. A survey of adult awareness and use of medicine containing acetaminophen. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2012 Aug 13. doi: 10.1002/pds.3335. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed
Von Korff MR. Opioids for chronic noncancer pain: as the pendulum swings, who should set prescribing standards for primary care? Ann Fam Med. 2012 Jul;10(4):302-3. PubMed
Grattan A, Sullivan MD, Saunders KW, Campbell CI, Von Korff MR. Depression and prescription opioid misuse among chronic opioid therapy recipients with no history of substance abuse. Ann Fam Med. 2012;10(4):304-11. PubMed
To view more publications, please see Dr. Von Korff's CV.