Peterson Report Finds Value in Virtual Musculoskeletal Solutions

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In March 2024, the Peterson Health Technology Institute (PHTI), which has begun conducting independent evaluations of healthcare technologies, released an evaluation of digital diabetes management tools that concluded the technologies do not deliver meaningful clinical benefits and result in increased healthcare spending. Now PHTI has issued a report finding that for people with a range of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, many virtual solutions deliver clinically meaningful improvements in pain and function.

Based on review of scientific literature, PHTI said the evidence indicates that many of these solutions offer clinical benefits to patients that are comparable to in-person physical therapy (PT). These solutions also have the potential to improve access to therapy, reduce healthcare spending, and offer greater convenience compared to in-person PT.

PHTI’s analysis uses an evidence-based framework and review of more than 2,000 articles, including 53 submitted to PHTI by companies evaluated in the report. PHTI received input from various experts and individuals, including licensed physical therapists, clinical advisors, MSK patients, and other stakeholders. 

According to the report, physical therapist-guided solutions offer the most promise and overall value, as they improve patient outcomes on pain and function comparably to in-person physical therapy, with a net decrease in spending. For many conditions, they may be reasonably substituted for in-person therapy. This category includes Hinge Health, Omada Health, RecoveryOne, Sword Health, and Vori Health. In terms of the economic impact, the report estimates that if 25% of in-person physical therapy 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. Balancing these two facts while being mindful of costs is essential,” said report contributor Adam Bennett, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a statement.

Additional findings from the report, include:
• App-based exercise therapies, including solutions from DarioHealth and Kaia, can improve pain and function compared to usual care, but are unlikely to be effective as total substitutes for in-person physical therapy. However, they may be effective solutions to provide broad-based virtual care for patients with lower-acuity who may experience clinical benefits, and the economic impact will depend on price.


• While there is a limited evidence base for remote therapeutic monitoring-augmented PT solutions used between in-person therapy sessions, the findings indicate that this category may deliver better clinical results on pain and functional improvement compared to in-person physical therapy alone. However, even after accounting for the health benefits these solutions provide, annual healthcare spending was estimated to increase because the savings from lower utilization do not offset increases in billing.

 

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