Spine patient visits expected to increase 7% in 2022: 5 notes

Alan Condon -  

Joint pain medical encounters are projected to increase 22 percent in 2022, with spine-related visits expected to rise 7 percent, according to a Jan. 5 report by predictive analytics company Prealize Health.

Five notes:

1. Exercise keeps musculoskeletal systems healthy, but the stress and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to people exercising less and an increase in sedentary lifestyle, with average daily sitting time for Americans increasing by about 28 percent, a Frontiers in Psychology study found.

2. Many patients who required spine and joint-related procedures delayed surgery during the pandemic. More than one-third of elective spine surgeries canceled during the first wave of the pandemic remained unscheduled as of July 2021, according to Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection.

3. The results of these procedure delays, including the inability to function in daily life, are expected to show up in 2022 care utilization, according to the Prealize report.

4. "The lack of exercise is a key driver of yet-undiagnosed musculoskeletal issues, even among people who are fitness fanatics or have no underlying contributors," Lee Sacks, MD, retired CMO of Downers Grove, Ill.-based Advocate Aurora Health, said in the Prealize report. "The ramifications of the pandemic-influenced sedentary lifestyle and long-haul COVID effects will start to arise en masse in the coming year."

5. The Prealize report anticipates pandemic-related restrictions on surgical procedures — especially higher-acuity spine and orthopedic cases — will begin driving patients who can't be maintained by telehealth alone back to costlier utilization this year.

Editor's note: Prealize Health's 2022 predictions are based on its analysis of claims data from more than 2 million members between September 2017 and August 2021. The analysis accounted for patients of all ages across all business lines such as commercial, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care. Prealize used machine learning and artificial intelligence trained on four years of medical claims, prescription claims and lab data to predict future healthcare costs and patient utilization.

Click here to download the full report.

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