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Study Spotlight: Initial Consultation with PT Provider May Reduce Healthcare Utilization in Patients Seeking Care for Neck Pain

For patients with a new episode of neck pain, initially consulting with a nonpharmacological provider (physical therapist or chiropractor) may decrease opioid exposure.

Neck pain is an immense physical, social and economic burden, regarded as a major public health problem. In fact, half of all individuals will experience a clinically important episode of neck pain at some point in their life, and 80% of those people eventually seek care. Despite this prevalence, there has been no consensus on the type of provider a patient should see first for care—a key indicator of downstream healthcare utilization. On top of that, there are the ever-present dangers of opioid addiction, which has been identified as a public health epidemic.

To address these problems, a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes journal aimed to determine the connection between the type of provider initially consulted and 1-year, downstream healthcare utilization to inform future care recommendations.

In the study, Horn et al investigated a retrospective cohort of 1,702 patients with a new episode of neck pain over a 1-year period. The researchers then separated those patients into groups based on who they consulted first: primary care provider (PCP), physical therapist (PT), chiropractor (DC), or a specialist.

The study found that the practitioner consulted at the index visit for neck pain can have an impact on downstream healthcare utilization. More importantly, the researchers found that, when compared to an initial neck pain consultation with a PCP, an initial consultation with a nonpharmacological provider (DC or PT) is associated with a decrease in opioid use 30 days and 1 year after initial consultation.

These findings are consistent with recent guidelines, which favor nonpharmacological interventions. In light of the opioid addiction epidemic, stronger alignment of PTs and DCs as front-line providers by healthcare systems may be needed.

MedRisk’s PTConsult services support this goal by proactively identifying and solving for issues through a telephone consultation and screening process. PTConsult takes or recommends the best course of action to eliminate obstacles to recovery and reduce total claim cost and healthcare utilization.

To read the full article, click here.

Horn ME, George SZ, and Fritz JM – Influence of Initial Provider on Health Care Utilization in Patients Seeking Care for Neck Pain
Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 2017 Dec; 1(3): 226–233.

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