Not long ago, musculoskeletal (MSK) care was associated with taking time out for an afternoon appointment with the doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of it. What used to be a simple therapy appointment has now become a risk of potential exposure. Fortunately, Telehealth has helped expand access to MSK care at a time when the pandemic has severely restricted patients’ ability to see the therapists.

BROADER ACCESS

The deployment of technology to reimagine the way Americans access musculoskeletal (MSK) care is a big step toward modernizing an antiquated industry. Telehealth for MSK care now provides quick, safe access to an extensive network of Musculoskeletal (MSK) specialists, and connects the patients to the care they need with the press of a few buttons.

There are a wide variety of Telehealth programs for musculoskeletal conditions available including virtual physical therapy, chronic pain management, triage, post-surgery rehab etc.

Irrespective of the musculoskeletal condition, people now have access to care and get the resources they need to improve their health outcome, all from their smartphone.

THE NEW PARADIGM

Telehealth for musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions is not a 45 minutes zoom call with a therapist. It is a new model of patient-centered care that leverages advanced cloud technology to deliver better health outcomes at a lower cost. It is also a better model of care delivery.

MSK Telehealth provides an environment where the therapist is focused on listening to the specific issues of the patient. The live video environment on a smaller screen limits the distraction that patients encounter in a busy therapy clinic and brings both patient and therapist in an interactive environment. In addition, patients feel more conformable at home, which reduces the anxiety and leads to more productive interaction.

Even the physical examination is improved in a Telehealth environment. Getting a better understanding of specific needs and concerns of the patient helps the therapist organize the physical examination better. By observing specific movements, postures, and positions in the home setting provides the therapist with a clearer picture of real-world functional limitations.

The care model is more asynchronous and less dependent on regularly scheduled sessions. The physical therapist sets a prescription like they do in the clinic setting, but instead of static paper handouts the patient receives a rich, engaging application. Sophisticated virtual physical therapy platforms guides the patient through her prescribed exercises, providing corrections and encouragement in real time.

In addition, the patient is able to provide feedback and her comfort level on prescribed exercises. That information is sent back to the physical therapist, who can view actual patient data to see therapy adherence. By asking, listening, monitoring and reflecting, the therapists gain a deeper understanding of the fears, concerns, and pertinent psychosocial factors of each individual, which helps them better customize the plans to add behavioral health support and education to the exercises.

Much more so than with traditional care, Telehealth for musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions includes a larger educational and self-management components. Because the therapist is not physically present to assist with movements or joint stabilization, the onus is much more on the patient to learn these techniques and practice them continually.

FASTER, BETTER CARE AT LOWER COST

Musculoskeletal care and interventional pain management (MSK) pose substantial challenges for employers in a highly fragmented delivery system with pervasive over-utilization, and price variation between providers. With MSK conditions affecting one in every two American adults, the need for evidence-based care and proactive member engagement is essential to better managing care and cost. Telehealth for musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions is more accessible and cost effective than a brick and mortar office, hospital, or urgent care facility.  

Several studies have demonstrated that Telehealth can provide improvements in pain, physical function and disability that are similar to that of in-person care for individuals with musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis, non-specific low back pain, or total knee arthroplasty rehab. The use of Telehealth has also been shown to increase exercise adherence for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions.

Telehealth for musculoskeletal (MSK) care has been shown to be a viable and effective alternative to in-person healthcare services for the management of many musculoskeletal conditions. Given its effectiveness, it should not be considered a temporary stop-gap, but rather as a sustainable alternative mode in which members can get faster access to better treatments, at a lower cost.

Sprite health helps employers and health plans get the most out of their musculoskeletal benefits. Our digital MSK HUB provides a single point of access for all MSK conditions, across the entire MSK continuum. Our virtual physical therapy services provide a more affordable and convenient way to prevent and treat pain. MSK triage ensures that members get help and advice to pick the right treatment at the right time. Chronic pain management provides an evidence-based, PT-led digital program for chronic joint and back pain that includes personalized exercise therapy, behavioral health support, education & guidance. MSK financial management leverages predictive analytics, clinical expertise and plan administration capabilities to eliminate waste – resulting in over 30% net savings in your MSK spend.

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