Michael Von Korff, ScD

Senior Investigator


Recent publications

Curriculum vitae (CV)




Research interests and experience

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, Changing Chronic Pain Management & Use of Opioids, 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 on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on 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.


Recent publications

Vitiello MV, McCurry SM, Shortreed SM, Baker LD, Rybarczyk BD, Keefe FJ, Von Korff M. Short-term improvement in insomnia symptoms predicts long-term improvements in sleep, pain, and fatigue in older adults with comorbid osteoarthritis and insomnia. Pain. 2014 May 1. pii: S0304-3959(14)00218-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2014.04.032 [Epub ahead of print] PubMed

Deyo RA, Dworkin SF, Amtmann D, Andersson G, Borenstein D, Carragee E, Carrino J, Chou R, Cook K, Delitto A, Goertz C, Khalsa P, Loeser J, Mackey S, Panagis J, Rainville J, Tosteson T, Turk D, Von Korff M, Weiner DK. Report of the NIH Task Force on Research Standards for chronic low back pain. J Pain. 2014 Apr 28. pii: S1526-5900(14)00680-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2014.03.005 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

McCurry SM, Shortreed SM, Von Korff M, Balderson BH, Baker LD, Rybarczyk BD, Vitiello MV. Who benefits from CBT for insomnia in primary care? Important patient selection and trial design lessons from longitudinal results of the Lifestyles trial. Sleep. 2014 Feb 1;37(2):299-308. doi: 10.5665/sleep.3402. PubMed

LeResche L, Turner JA, Saunders K, Shortreed SM, Von Korff MR. Psychophysical tests as predictors of back pain chronicity in primary care. J Pain. 2013;14(12):1663-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2013.08.008. PubMed

Von Korff M. Opioids for chronic musculoskeletal pain: putting patient safety first. Pain. 2013 Dec;154(12):2583-5. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.09.017. Epub 2013 Sep 27. PubMed

Rosenberg D, Lin E, Peterson D, Ludman E, Von Korff M, Katon W. Integrated medical care management and behavioral risk factor reduction for multicondition patients: behavioral outcomes of the TEAMcare trial. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2013 Nov 4. pii: S0163-8343(13)00309-5. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2013.10.017. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Turner JA, Saunders K, Shortreed SM, Rapp SE, Thielke S, LeResche L, Riddell KM, Von Korff M. Chronic Opioid Therapy Risk Reduction Initiative: impact on urine drug testing rates and results. J Gen Intern Med. 2013 Oct 19 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Von Korff M, Shortreed SM, Saunders KW, LeResche L, Berlin JA, Stang P, Turner JA. Comparison of back pain prognostic risk stratification item sets. J Pain. 2013 Oct 4. pii: S1526-5900(13)01265-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2013.09.013 [Epub ahead of print] PubMed

Von Korff MR. Long-term use of opioids for complex chronic pain. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2013;27(5):663-72. doi: 10.1016/j.berh.2013.09.011. Epub 2013 Oct 5. PubMed

Von Korff MR. Health care for chronic pain: overuse, underuse, and treatment needs: commentary on: chronic pain and health services utilization-is there overuse of diagnostic tests and inequalities in nonpharmacologic methods utilization? Med Care. 2013 Oct;51(10):857-8. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3182a53db3. PubMed

Coleman SM, Katon W, Lin E, Von Korff M. Depression and death in diabetes: 10-year follow-up of all-cause and cause-specific mortality in a diabetic cohort. Psychosomatics. 2013 Sep-Oct;54(5):428-36. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2013.02.015. Epub 2013 Jun 4. PubMed

To view more publications, please see Dr. Von Korff’s CV.