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If you Build it, Will they Come? Patient and Provider Use of a Novel Hybrid Telehealth Care Pathway for Low Back Pain.

Lentz TA, Coffman CJ, Cope T, Stearns Z, Simon CB, Choate A, Gladney M, France C, Hastings SN, George SZ. If you Build it, Will they Come? Patient and Provider Use of a Novel Hybrid Telehealth Care Pathway for Low Back Pain. Physical Therapy. 2023 Sep 26.

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OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to describe the referrals and use of a hybrid care model for low back pain that includes on-site care by physical therapists, physical activity training, and psychologically informed practice (PiP) delivered by telehealth in the Improving Veteran Access to Integrated Management of Low Back Pain (AIM-Back) trial. METHODS: Data were collected from November 2020 through February 2023 from 5 Veteran Health Administration clinics participating in AIM-Back, a multisite, cluster-randomized embedded pragmatic trial. The authors extracted data from the Veteran Health Administration Corporate Data Warehouse to describe referral and enrollment metrics, telehealth use (eg, distribution of physical activity and PiP calls), and treatments used by physical therapists and telehealth providers. RESULTS: 701 veterans were referred to the AIM-Back trial with 422 enrolling in the program (consult-to-enrollment rate = 60.2%). After travel restrictions were lifted, site visits resulted in a significant increase in referrals and a number of new referring providers. At initial evaluation by on-site physical therapists, 92.2% of veterans received pain modulation (eg, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, manual therapy). Over 81% of enrollees completed at least 1 telehealth physical activity call, with a mean of 2.8 (SD = 2.0) calls out of 6. Of the 167 veterans who screened as medium to high risk of persistent disability, 74.9% completed at least 1 PiP call, with a mean of 2.5 (SD = 2.0) calls out of 6. Of those who completed at least 1 PiP call (n = 125), 100% received communication strategies, 97.6% received pain coping skills training, 89.6% received activity-based treatments, and 99.2% received education in a home program. CONCLUSION: In implementing a hybrid care pathway for low back pain, the authors observed consistency in the delivery of core components (ie, pain modulation, use of physical activity training, and risk stratification to PiP), notable variability in telehealth calls, high use of PiP components, and increased referrals with tailored provider engagement. IMPACT: These findings describe variability occurring within a hybrid care pathway and can inform future implementation efforts.

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