Saturday, July 13, 2024

Evaluating Virtual Musculoskeletal Solutions: Enhancing Access and Reducing Healthcare Costs

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The Peterson Health Technology Institute (PHTI) has conducted an in-depth evaluation of virtual musculoskeletal (MSK) care solutions, addressing conditions such as low back, knee, hip, shoulder, and neck pain. This report provides a detailed analysis of virtual MSK solutions, focusing on their clinical and economic impacts, and offers guidance for stakeholders in the healthcare sector.

Musculoskeletal problems affect over one in three Americans, impacting muscles, bones, joints, or connective tissues. These issues can arise from acute injuries, repetitive strain, or osteoarthritis. Virtual MSK solutions, particularly virtual physical therapy (PT), aim to enhance access to care and improve pain management, and functional status, ultimately reducing the need for unnecessary treatments.

The report evaluates three main categories of virtual MSK solutions: app-based exercise therapy solutions, physical therapist-guided solutions, and remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM)-augmented PT solutions. App-based exercise therapy solutions are designed to replace in-person care through self-directed exercise programs managed primarily by algorithms. Physical therapist-guided solutions offer virtual PT with significant clinical involvement, including care plan design and ongoing management. RTM-augmented PT solutions supplement in-person PT, enhancing adherence to care plans between visits through remote monitoring.

PHTI Highlights Benefits and Strategic Recommendations for Virtual Musculoskeletal Solutions

PHTI’s review indicates that virtual MSK solutions deliver meaningful improvements in pain and function compared to usual care. Specifically, physical therapist-guided solutions can effectively replace in-person PT and potentially reduce healthcare costs. App-based exercise therapy solutions offer value for patients with lower acuity at the right price, while RTM-augmented PT solutions, though clinically effective, may increase costs, making them suitable for more serious musculoskeletal conditions. Virtual solutions are particularly beneficial for older adults and those in rural areas with limited access to in-person PT.

For purchasers, PHTI recommends negotiating competitive prices, shifting to value-based payment models, and integrating virtual musculoskeletal care into medical benefits. Innovators should ensure virtual musculoskeletal solutions are part of medical benefits and collaborate with payers and providers to enhance patient triage and build evidence for complex MSK care. Providers are encouraged to promote PT-first musculoskeletal care and inform patients about various therapy options to find the best fit for their needs.

Virtual Musculoskeletal

PHTI’s Evaluation of Virtual Solutions and Their Impact on Healthcare

MSK problems significantly burden patients and the healthcare system, with low-income and Black populations disproportionately affected. As the population ages, the incidence of MSK disorders increases. The market for virtual musculoskeletal solutions is growing, utilizing clinical and AI-enabled support to guide therapy. A clearer understanding of these technologies is crucial for stakeholders aiming to improve access, convenience, and cost-effectiveness.

PHTI’s assessment framework evaluates clinical and economic impacts based on rigorous evidence. The evaluation includes a wide range of virtual musculoskeletal solutions from companies such as DarioHealth, Hinge Health, Kaia Health, and others. Clinical outcomes assessed include improvements in pain, function, and adherence, while economic impacts consider healthcare spending compared to in-person PT.

Virtual musculoskeletal solutions show promise in expanding access to effective care, improving patient outcomes, and potentially reducing healthcare costs. However, integrating these solutions into medical benefits and adopting value-based payment models are essential steps for maximizing their benefits. PHTI’s comprehensive evaluation provides valuable insights for stakeholders looking to adopt high-value technology in healthcare. The full report and additional resources can be accessed on the PHTI website, offering detailed findings and recommendations for the effective implementation of virtual musculoskeletal solutions in the healthcare system.

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Resource: Peterson Health Technology Institute, June 12, 2024

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