Moving From Fragmented to Frictionless Musculoskeletal Care

July 21st, 2021  by  Dr. Jeff Krauss, MD – Chief Medical Officer

Over the last decade, musculoskeletal (MSK) healthcare spending has doubled, largely driven by unnecessary surgeries and more expensive treatments like fancy implants, according to our Hinge Health State of the MSK Report 2021. Moreover, the current approach to MSK care is driven by individual specialists who fail to look at a member’s whole body or past history. This approach results in a fragmented healthcare experience for most members, expensive care that is funded by employers and payers, and ultimately leads to suboptimal outcomes.

Musculoskeletal Care: A Fragmented Experience for Members

In April 2021, Hinge Health conducted a survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers with moderate or severe MSK pain who were likely to interact with healthcare providers. The survey findings underscore how the current fragmented approach to MSK care is failing members and highlights members’ desire for a more holistic and integrated approach to care.

Here are four of our key findings:

1. Members are frustrated with a fragmented MSK care experience. Over half saw two or more providers for their MSK care. 50% of respondents felt their past history got lost in between different providers. And 87% said they felt their MSK care would benefit if their provider looked at their whole picture. Members recognize their MSK care is fragmented and their chances of recovery are likely suffering as a result.

2. Clinicians fail to provide holistic care for the whole body. The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that a hallmark of patient-centered care is treating individuals holistically from a clinical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, and financial perspective. Our survey suggests, however, surgery and injections as the go-to solutions. One-third of survey respondents were pointed to invasive interventions and 40% of individuals with moderate or severe pain had at least one surgery for the MSK pain. Even though key lifestyle changes like stress management, mental health, and nutrition are essential for resolving MSK pain, fewer than 25% of our survey respondents received an in-depth consultation or care plan that covered necessary lifestyle modifications.

3. With suboptimal fragmented care, it’s not surprising MSK members have discouraging outcomes. Of the survey participants who underwent surgery, nearly two-thirds (64%) reported “a little” or no improvement in their pain post-surgery. In addition, over one-third (36%) of survey respondents indicated that at some point during their MSK journey, they had an opioid prescription for more than three months, which substantially increases their chances of dependence and substance abuse in the future. The sad news is that Americans are paying tremendous amounts of money for these results. More than half of people in the United States suffer from MSK conditions, leading to costs of $600 billion per year.

4. Members want to be in the driver’s seat. Members are also open to revisiting their role in the patient-clinician relationship. The New England Journal of Medicine describes this shift as a change from patient as the traditional, passive “order taker” to an active “team member.” Our survey results suggest that this will be a welcome change for many members with MSK conditions — close to three-quarters (72%) of respondents indicated that they would like a personal health coach who could act as a “co-pilot” and champion their overall health.

Digital Health Technologies Can Provide an Integrated Frictionless MSK Care Experience

To reduce healthcare fragmentation, employers and health plans can take the lead in creating a more integrated and frictionless experience by leveraging new digital health technologies. By giving your members access to digital health technologies, their various clinicians across specialities can participate in one virtual collaborative care team — creating customized and comprehensive care plans. Hinge Health’s Digital MSK Clinic offers care teams that includes physicians, physical therapists, health coaches, nutritionists, and other specialists to evaluate each member's whole body and lifestyle, not just one injury.

Hinge Health’s Digital MSK Clinic leverages virtual care and digital technologies to streamline communication between clinical team members, even if they aren’t co-located. Care teams also empower patients with advanced wearable technologies for non-opioid pain management alternatives and connected digital tools that collect data as they exercise at home.

Hinge Health’s member outcomes are encouraging, with a 69% average reduction in pain per participant, a 48% reduction in depression and anxiety, and nearly two-thirds reduction in patient surgery interest.

To learn more about our research and how Hinge Health can help your organization deliver truly integrated and holistic care for individuals with MSK needs, download our white paper “Creating a Frictionless Healthcare Experience – Survey Report 2021: What Members Want in Musculoskeletal Care

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Dr. Jeff Krauss, MD
About the Author

Dr. Krauss is Hinge Health’s Chief Medical Officer. He graduated from Harvard College, earned his Medical degree from UC San Francisco School of Medicine, and completed his residency in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Stanford University. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford University in the Department of Orthopedics, and he continues to practice as a part-time Staff Physician at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

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