According to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI), more than half of adults in the US suffer from a musculoskeletal (MSK) condition; in 2018, MSK conditions were shown to cost the US healthcare system $420 billion, making them the costliest chronic condition in the country. The USBJI has also demonstrated that treatment costs and lost wages stemming from MSK disorders increased by 131% and 220%, respectively, between 1996 and 2014.
As a result, the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) has been gradually targeting MSK and orthopedic procedures for cost-containment measures such as alternative payment models that rely on specific quality and value thresholds.
Much of the cost burden associated with these conditions is caused by significant variation in standards of care across different hospitals, providers, and states, as well as a lack of care coordination that leads to costly complications and adverse events, including readmissions or emergency department (ED) visits.
Avoiding Adverse Events
Without the direct communication tools afforded by comprehensive digital care management platforms, many patients who have concerns regarding wounds, pain, exercises, and other issues will typically call their care team, present for in-person care, or even go to the ED. Other patients may fail to notice a problematic development with their recovery, leading to worsening complications or adverse events.
However, through direct communication (whether messaging or video calls) and smart delivery of digital education and care instructions, providers can mitigate specific patient questions and concerns before they even arise. This can reduce call volumes and voicemails, which allows providers to focus their attention where it is most needed.
In addition, consistent visibility into patient recovery can also help avoid unnecessary readmissions and ER visits, which are associated with significant costs to the health system and a great deal of anxiety for the patient. Beyond this, continuous contact with patients also empowers providers to catch serious adverse events or complications early on, enabling individualized adjustments to care plans that can produce strong patient outcomes.
Standardizing Orthopedic Care Pathways
Variation in care outcomes is typically caused by a lack of standardization of patient care pathways between different surgeons, departments, or sites of service. With provider-designed evidence-based digital care pathways, many surgeons, care teams, and sites of service can seamlessly follow the same care protocols for distinct patient populations, supporting an elevated standard of care across complex health systems and reducing variation between different care teams.
Moreover, the wealth of data collected through digital care management can inform further improvements to care processes. Force Therapeutics’ Intelligent Care Plan and clinical analytics capabilities empower providers to utilize clinical intelligence to personalize patient care plans and customize them based on clinical insights delivered through dashboards, APIs, and raw data sets. Evaluating the analytics provided through Force Therapeutics and sharing those outcomes with care teams enables both clinical and programmatic adjustments, ensuring patients are always having the best experience possible.
Forward-thinking care teams that employ digital care tools assess the data that they collect on a regular basis to implement iterative care improvements. For instance, at Hartford HealthCare, care teams typically evaluate data collected via Force Therapeutics on a quarterly or monthly basis, allowing care navigators to make changes to care pathways where necessary. Such adjustments can be as minor as changing the timing of a specific educational video or as significant as implementing a specific care pathway across different surgeons to reduce variation.
Digital Care Improves Standards of Care, Study Shows
Even as patient volumes expanded, Hartford HealthCare teams have been able to achieve immensely impressive results when it comes to patient engagement, education, experience, and outcomes, maintaining high care standards despite expanding patient volumes and the financial restrictions being experienced across the US healthcare ecosystem.
This was highlighted in a recent study analyzing Hartford HealthCare’s digital care experience across more than 14,000 patients, with 85% of patients opting in to use the platform, 77% enabling SMS reminders to complete tasks and review education materials, and 87% registering pain entries.
In addition, 96% of patients reported being “very prepared” or “prepared” for their procedure, while 98% reported a “very good” or “good” experience at the facility. Average patient satisfaction with the procedure and the platform was 4.6/5 and 4.3/5, respectively.
Also observed in the study were distinct and clinically significant improvements in pain, function, mental health, and activities of daily living, as well as marked declines in disability scores. For example, nearly 80% of hip patients met the HOOS Jr. minimal clinically important difference (MCID) at 1Y post-operatively.
Interested in learning more and exploring the data? Download the full study below.