Back pain may be one of the most common human afflictions, but treatment for the condition is often unsuccessful due to a number of reasons including backlogs in the healthcare system because of physician shortages or antiquated IT systems, patients who don’t fully understand their condition or how to manage it, and inadequate treatment plans that don’t lend themselves to interventions when they aren’t working.
All of those issues together form gaps in understanding on what does and doesn’t work for back pain rehabilitation, according to doctors at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, United Kingdom. In an effort to shed some light on what’s going on, the hospital tapped the services of UK-based digital health company Inhealthcare, which offers a remote monitoring platform used by many National Health Services agencies.
It’s part of the hospital’s North England Regional Back Pain Programme – an initiative funded by healthcare charity Health Foundation that is investing over $4.5 million in innovative healthcare projects that can be delivered at scale. Inhealthcare is providing the tools to monitor 3,600 patients who are being treated for back pain in the North East region by sending clinical questionnaires via the web to the patients after they have been referred for treatment by their doctors. All patients voluntarily signed up to receive the questions periodically, and their answers are integrated into existing NHS clinical systems such as SystemOne and EMIS Web.
The project was selected as the NHS reports poor rehabilitation and variable outcomes for lower back pain management, especially in the North East region.
“Back pain is one of the highest volume activities in the NHS. It absolutely lends itself to digital health,” Inhealthcare Product Director Richard Quine said in a statement. “With real-time feedback from thousands of people suffering from this debilitating condition, the NHS can identify interventions that are working locally and then deliver care at scale across the country.”
Additionally, Inhealthcare’s platform allows for data collection about the nuances of back pain treatment on a scale and speed otherwise unattainable by physicians, and the platform analyzes the data to quickly identify and refer any serious issues to facilitate interventions.
“We believe this service has the potential to dramatically improve the wellbeing of patients with back pain across the UK and help the NHS to target its resources in a much smarter way,” Quine said. “After all, you can’t improve what you can’t measure.”
Inhealthcare has been part of a number of NHS contracts. The company, which was founded in 2012, is on a mission to digitize services throughout the entire NHS system, and offers many different remote monitoring, telehealth and data capture and aggregation platform options to healthcare organizations including diabetes management, in-home care, and many chronic conditions. Inhealthcare’s core digital platform complements several NHS initiatives and supports some 25,000 patients across hundreds of primary care practices, nursing homes and hospitals. They also work with many different devices and technology methods, such as glucose monitors that transmit data to their primary care physician via text, or a patient with chronic pain communicating via an app. In March, the company started working with Medway Community Healthcare to provide remote monitoring services to people self-managing their cardiac health.