Business Group and Providers Find Millions in Back Pain Savings

An employer group teamed up with local providers to codify treatment for lower back pain that they say could save local employers millions. The course of care for patients was evidence-based and is meant to improve efficiency and bring down costs.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health created the Innovative Quality Healthcare Collaborative with the help of providers that include Baylor Scott and White Health Texas Provider Network, Catalyst Health Network, Spine Team Texas, and Texas Back Institute to create courses of care for employers to bring down healthcare costs.

The course was created after researching what is normally done with major insurers amongst employers, identifying unnecessary components and variations to standard practice. According to IQ Healthcare, treatment should begin with an office visit for evaluation, which can be followed by physical therapy and then imaging, injections, and surgery if each are needed.

“In an unmanaged situation, there is much variation in how care is delivered resulting in some patients receiving sub-standard care,” said Scott Conard, MD, DFWBGH medical director via release. “It’s exciting to see the improvements that can be made by following standard treatment protocols and adherence to clinical care pathways. The goal is for the patient to have the healthy outcome they seek without surgery, unless necessary.”

The group analyzed data for 77,375 patients and 87,287 incidents of lower back pain from the last two years, and found that the standard was only met 29 percent of the time in the overall market. DFWBGH concluded that when the established process was followed, costs were 70 percent lower, $599 compared to $1,978 per episode. If 20 percent of the market followed the course of care, employers would see a savings of $10 million.

“This effort has provided North Texas employers with greater insights as we continually navigate the delicate balance between quality, outcomes and cost,” said Brian Dickerson, DFWBGH president and director of Human Resources for the City of Fort Worth via release. “This is about more than bending the cost curve, as keeping employees healthy is an essential aspect of this program’s vision.”