Musculoskeletal conditions impacting bones, joints, muscles, and connective tissues are a leading cost driver for global healthcare spending. They are also highly prevalent in the elderly population.
Digital MSK companies are stepping in to help patients overcome these challenges. But, as with other digital health offerings, they need to complement in-person care rather than replace it.
Streamlined Patient Care
Musculoskeletal conditions are the leading cost drivers in global health care. They impact bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and connective tissues. These conditions can lead to painful and debilitating symptoms.
The digital musculoskeletal care is a streamlined patient journey that supports members to maximize the best outcomes. Using the most current clinical evidence, Welkin’s platform empowers members and providers to make informed decisions based on their values and preferences.
To support this process, Welkin’s platform includes a member profile where they define their preferences in communication and care. Then, the program matches them with the proper care team members and schedules to support their needs.
Welkin’s platform also facilitates shared decision-making to ensure that members are educated on the benefits and harms of surgical options and that they are prepared for their surgery. This helps members avoid complications and recover more effectively with fewer ER visits.
Companies are adopting new technology to help deliver better, more effective care to meet the rising demand for virtual physical therapy. Hinge Health, for example, recently acquired Wrench, a computer vision company that will be integrated into its digital physical therapy programs. Omada Health, meanwhile, has launched a computer vision-powered tool that helps physical therapists remotely measure patients’ movement and range of motion.
Better Patient Outcomes
Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are a leading cost driver in health care spending and one of the most significant contributors to disability. These conditions, including back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and arthritis, affect one in six Americans and are associated with high symptom burden and poor productivity.
These musculoskeletal conditions impact physical function and can increase the risk for other health conditions and comorbidities. In addition, they often prevent patients from engaging in exercise and other forms of self-care, which can lead to weight gain and depression.
Digital musculoskeletal programs can significantly improve pain and functional status in the short term. However, they must be augmented with behavioral health and lifestyle interventions to achieve the best outcomes.
This is why many leading digital healthcare providers are building personalized rehabilitation programs to help patients manage and control their MSK pain and improve their overall health. These companies use apps, personal coaching, and the latest research to help their patients reach optimal clinical results.
Unlike the typical cycle of physical therapy visits, these new platforms combine virtual exercises with real-time coaching from a physical therapist or clinician to achieve better patient outcomes. These programs also make it easier to keep track of progress and engage with patients. And they are helping to shift the field away from unnecessary tests and referrals, which can save health systems and patients money.
Musculoskeletal conditions are one of the top cost drivers in healthcare today. In addition, they are the leading cause of disability, with low back pain ranked number one.
In addition, musculoskeletal disorders are linked to other chronic health issues, including obesity, depression, and opioid misuse. They are also a common contributor to missed workdays and increased employee stress.
The healthcare industry is increasingly utilizing digital solutions to treat and manage musculoskeletal disorders. These technologies offer a variety of benefits, such as improving patient outcomes and decreasing medical-service utilization.
Digital musculoskeletal care can also be significantly more cost effective than traditional treatments. By leveraging virtual visits, e-visits, and phone calls to conduct evaluations and consults, providers can deliver high-value services that are often free or low-cost for members.
By implementing a digital musculoskeletal solution, employers and health plans can reduce the overall costs of musculoskeletal care and improve member engagement with these services. For example, some organizations waive the copay or provide rewards when members use these services.
The digital musculoskeletal solution uses population segmentation to group members based on their needs, which helps identify members at risk of unnecessary utilization and prioritizes them for targeted intervention. It also supports risk stratification to help determine which members are at the highest risk for surgery and injections and can be referred to the most appropriate providers.
Increased Patient Engagement
In an increasingly mobile-first healthcare environment, musculoskeletal-focused digital apps are becoming essential tools for patients with complex musculoskeletal conditions. These programs provide a comprehensive array of pain management, mobility management,t, and self-management services.
In addition to improving access, digital musculoskeletal care also increases patient engagement. For example, research shows that patient-provider communication via in-app messages and video visits can effectively enhance adherence to physical therapy.
For example, a recent study found that patient-provider communication via text message increases exercise adherence in people with knee osteoarthritis.
This is especially true for musculoskeletal conditions that affect low-income populations. Using digital communication tools to increase exercise adherence among these populations is essential since many have difficulty finding and paying for care.
Additionally, many musculoskeletal conditions are expensive, so patients must engage in their care to achieve positive outcomes. Adding digital tools to their care plan can make this possible, as many people are more comfortable using technology than traditional treatment methods.
Several digital musculoskeletal care startups have launched technologies that can improve patient engagement, such as computer vision tracking tools. Companies like Hinge Health, which recently acquired Wrench, use advanced technology to track patient motion. These tools allow physical therapists to measure patients’ movement remotely and tailor their programs accordingly.