A recent study revealed that programs for interdisciplinary functional restoration (FR) for chronic disabling occupational musculoskeletal disorders (CDOMDs) initiated early can lead to substantial health care cost savings. The study examined financial and socioeconomic outcomes from 1,119 participants with CDOMDs who received FR at different points from the onset of this condition: one group was 4 to 8 months after, a second was 9 to 18 months after, and a third group received FR after 18 months. The groups were matched for demographics and injured musculoskeletal regions.

The research team examined outcomes 1 year after rehabilitation and determined that in terms of return-to-work rates, work retention percentages, and additional health care utilization, all three groups were similar with overall rates of 88% for return to work, 80% for work retention, and small rates of additional health care utilization, according to a news release from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

In addition, notable differences were discovered when overall medical costs and disability benefits/productivity losses. The early intervention group demonstrated savings of 64% and 80%, respectively, over the intermediate and late-FR groups, as indicated on the APTA news release. The research team also estimated that the actual cost of rehabilitation was up to 56% less when FR was initiated early on.

Overall, the results of the study also showed that when FR programs were initiated within the first 8 months after the disabling event could lead to economic and health care cost savings of up to 72%, or approximately $170,000 per claim. The authors of the study write, “Early rehabilitation is more likely to be a cost-effective solution compared to cases that progress [for 8 months or more] and receive FR as a treatment of ‘last resort.’ ”

Though the authors acknowledge the study’s limitations, they write that the findings “are consistent with the general principle … that one of the ‘first principles to avoid delayed recovery’ is critical in enhancing cost-effectiveness of care for acute and chronic musculoskeletal disorders,” according to the APTA news release.

[Source: APTA]