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News » Virtual musculoskeletal solutions improve health outcomes, cut costs

Virtual musculoskeletal solutions improve health outcomes, cut costs

Virtual musculoskeletal solutions
Photo from Hinge Health

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES — Virtual solutions for musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are effective in improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs, according to a new independent evaluation by the Peterson Health Technology Institute (PHTI). 

The report reveals that these virtual solutions offer clinical benefits comparable to in-person physical therapy (PT) and have the potential to expand access to therapy, reduce healthcare spending, and provide greater convenience.

Virtual MSK care: The future of physical therapy

Nearly one in three Americans suffer from MSK disorders, which are the leading causes of disability and account for nearly 10% of medical spending in the U.S. 

These conditions significantly impact daily life, productivity, and mental health. Since 2010, over $38 billion has been invested in companies offering MSK solutions, including mergers and acquisitions.

PHTI Executive Director Caroline Pearson said “We know that early and regular use of physical therapy can speed the healing process and avoid other complex MSK care, such as surgery. Our findings indicate that virtual solutions represent effective treatment options that can expand the number of patients who both start and stick with physical therapy.”

Three categories of virtual MSK solutions evaluated

PHTI’s report assessed eight virtual MSK solutions across three categories:

  1. App-based exercise therapy with limited physical therapist intervention
  2. Physical therapist-guided solutions as alternatives to in-person care
  3. Solutions supplementing in-person PT with virtual care paid as remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM)

These technologies typically use body-worn motion trackers or cameras to guide patients through exercises and provide tailored feedback. Companies evaluated include DarioHealth, Hinge Health, Kaia Health, Limber Health, Omada Health, RecoveryOne, Sword Health, and Vori Health.

Clinical benefits on par with in-person therapy

The report, which reviewed over 2,000 articles, found that physical therapist-guided solutions offer the most promise, improving patient outcomes on pain and function comparably to in-person PT, with a net decrease in spending. 

For many conditions, these solutions can reasonably substitute in-person therapy. The report estimates that if 25% of in-person PT users with low back pain shifted to these platforms at a price of $995 per year, annual savings could total approximately $4.4 million per one million commercially insured individuals.

“Treating musculoskeletal disorders can often be challenging. Many minor injuries will get better without any treatment, but early participation in rehabilitation exercises will get people back to exercise sooner with less risk of reinjury,” said Dr. Adam Bennett, a contributor to the report.

American Physical Therapy Association President Roger Herr added, “Virtual musculoskeletal solutions guided by PTs can help reduce overall health care costs, ease administrative burdens on physical therapists, close an access gap for millions, and deliver improved clinical outcomes for the patients under our care.”

PHTI’s report suggests that integrating virtual MSK solutions into medical benefits and encouraging earlier referrals to PT could enhance their value, making it easier to identify and treat patients early in the process.

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