Employer-sponsored health clinics offering integrated physical medicine services such as physical therapy can improve clinical outcomes while lowering the costs of care for patients with back pain and other common musculoskeletal conditions, according to a study published recently in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Dena Bravata, MD, MS, of Stanford University and colleagues assessed the benefits of physical medicine services at 12 employer-sponsored health clinics that provide on-site access to physical therapists integrated with primary care, behavioral health, and other services.

The researchers analyzed clinical and economic outcomes of nearly 2,500 patients with musculoskeletal disorders seen at the clinics over 16 months, according to a media release from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Patients at the employer-sponsored clinics were able to access physical medicine services within about a week—much faster than a control group receiving traditional care in the community, the release suggests.

Integrated physical medicine also led to greater improvements in physical functioning and fear of pain. These benefits were achieved with eight fewer clinic visits, leading to significant cost reductions: by $630 per patient episode overall and by $472 for patients with back or neck pain.

Other outcomes were also better at employer-sponsored clinics, including a sharp reduction in opioid prescriptions for noncancer pain. Patients were highly likely to say they would recommend integrated employer-sponsored care, the release adds.

Providing integrated physical medicine services at employer-sponsored clinics in or near the workplace is an innovative approach to providing effective, efficient care for these conditions, per the researchers.

“Early access to physical medicine interventions is associated with improved patient outcomes at lower cost to the employer,” Bravata and coauthors write. “These results suggest that employer-sponsored clinics can improve timely access to evidence-based physical medicine services.”

[Source(s): American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Newswise]