How digital technology is revolutionizing the physical therapy experience and improving care outcomes
America’s 50+ population is large, and will keep growing as millennials – yes, millennials, the largest generation – will begin reaching their golden milestone in just a decade. And with that growth will come a steady increase in need for care for all manner of musculoskeletal conditions.
Musculoskeletal (MSK) care for life’s aching bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons already accounts for a large and growing share of Americans’ total medical spend. Treatments for conditions that range from mild and chronic to severe can take the form of physical therapy (PT), alternative medical practices (chiropractic, acupuncture and massage, known as “CAM”), and pain relief. These treatments, often applied alone or in combinations, can help delay or prevent a patient’s need for more costly care, such as surgery.
But each approach comes with a cost of its own, and some are more effective than others. Often, the most significant factor influencing an outcome is a patient’s participation and adherence to their own treatment regimen.
Digital tools help improve patient participation
With patient participation and adherence as the goal, today’s advanced digital technologies make accessing and maintaining a physical therapy regimen easier than ever. A leading example is the Hinge Health Digital MSK Clinic, which delivers personalized care for a wide variety of mild to acute MSK conditions. Hinge Health’s solution combines advanced wearable motion-sensing devices with a complete care team of licensed doctors, orthopedic surgeons and board-certified health coaches, to deliver an end-to-end PT program that addresses each patient’s unique physical and behavioral health needs.
There are numerous apps and self-guided programs consumers can use to help them prevent and treat pain, and get some relief from other MSK conditions. However, clinical research shows the most effective MSK treatments include input from one or more medical practitioners.
“It’s the combination of a personalized physical therapy regimen designed by real therapists and doctors, along with today’s most advanced digital technologies, that makes the Hinge Health solution effective,” says Mike Alexander, product manager for strategic partnerships and innovation at Regence. “By focusing on meeting patients where they are, and making physical therapy more personalized and accessible, tools like Hinge Health can help deliver care that’s more effective, and at a lower cost, than PT that was delivered in the past.”
Whether a patient’s care needs are preventive, acute, chronic, or pre-/post-surgical, PT that incorporates wearable motion sensors with digital coaching that’s accessible anytime, anywhere is clinically proven to drive high adherence and deliver results.
“Making PT highly convenient through digital devices patients are already comfortable with drives high engagement, and encourages patients to stick with their regimens,” says Joanna Saville, director of clinical services for Regence. “The high adherence leads to higher program completion rates, and results in better overall outcomes.”
Positive outcomes reported by Hinge Health include reduction in MSK-related pain with fewer prescribed opioids, lower rates of depression and anxiety that often occur when a patient is experiencing an MSK condition, and lower rates of MSK-related surgeries.
Cost savings to patients, and their employers
Another positive outcome is cost savings over traditional in-person PT care. Patients accessing their PT coaching digitally can save time and costs on travel to and from home or work, and in lost work time. Large employer groups who include solutions like Hinge Health in their health plan typically pay a low per-member/per-month charge for the service; delaying or preventing costly surgical procedures can quickly result in the solution paying for itself.
The Hinge Health Digital MSK Clinic is available to self-funded Regence group customers as an optional plan benefit.