Pain Points: Digital and Clinical Innovations Transforming Pain Management

September 28th, 2022  by  D.J. Kennedy, M.D. – Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

I recently had the opportunity to join Hinge Health President Jim Pursley for a discussion on digital and clinical innovations transforming pain management.

Understanding the challenges of musculoskeletal conditions

Musculoskeletal conditions have a massive impact on healthcare providers, but also on employers and even society at large. These conditions are wide-ranging, from the neck and lower back to the hips, knees and shoulders, and beyond.

We know that back pain alone is the number two cause of disability among workers, leading to missed work days and lower paychecks for millions of employees. That puts a heavier burden on families across America, as well as employers. With 80-90% of people experiencing severe back pain at some point in their life, it’s clear that MSK is a significant driver of disability in the US.

That’s why movement and prevention are key – and digital health can help propel people in that direction.

How digital health solutions can improve pain management

You know what they say: An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.

I think it’s essential to apply strength training principles to guide general care, and make prevention the most important part of the process. Incorporating strength training into a routine makes a patient better, faster, and stronger, all preventing future injuries. Digital health tools make this more accessible.

The reality is that it’s difficult for many people to get to a physical clinic to receive treatment. I grew up in the panhandle of Florida, for instance, so I empathize with those who need to take time off from work and travel significant distances to get to a clinic. But even in nonrural portions of America, accessibility is a challenge. I’ve also lived in the Bay Area before, where traveling 10 miles could take more than two hours because of traffic.

By adding digital health technologies to the mix, access to care increases for all different types of people. It makes it more likely that a patient will adhere to their treatment plan, and compliments the in-person therapy that a patient does receive.

And we already know digital communities enhance the patient’s buy-in. For example, home exercise bikes have been around for a very long time. And yet Peloton brought in aspects of gamification and community, and won over the hearts of many Americans who are now implementing exercise into their daily routine. This is what I can see as the future for digital health: by creating greater digital spaces and bridging the gap between in-person and at-home care, it will open opportunities for millions of Americans and enable them to live better and healthier lives.

Predictions for the future of MSK

As I look toward the future, I look at the past few years as an indicator. COVID-19 was a huge accelerant of change, but change that was already happening in the background. Virtual medicine was already being worked on in the industry, but struggled with the technical components to deliver it to market. Today, many of those barriers have been removed and digital health is thriving; I have a digital health component in nearly all of my care treatment plans at Vanderbilt.

As we continue to develop and deliver better digital care, I know that we will be able to provide greater access to more patients at an even better price point.

Pain Points is an ongoing series featuring leaders across industries – from retail to travel, medical and beyond – that explores topics at the intersection of healthcare, technology, and innovation. Watch the latest episode here and follow Hinge Health on LinkedIn and Twitter to make sure you don’t miss future episodes!

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D.J. Kennedy, M.D.
About the Author

D.J. Kennedy, M.D. is a Professor and Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center where his practice focuses on non-operative and interventional spine. He is currently a Deputy Editor for The Spine Journal, and on the editorial board for Pain Medicine. He is on the Board of Directors for the Spine Intervention Society where he is the Vice-President. He is also on the Board of Directors for the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) where he runs the Inclusion and Engagement Committee. D.J. also serves on the clinical advisory board for Hinge Health.

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