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J Am Board Fam Med. 2017 Nov-Dec;30(6):784-794. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2017.06.170064.

Relationship of Opioid Prescriptions to Physical Therapy Referral and Participation for Medicaid Patients with New-Onset Low Back Pain.

Author information

1
From the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training (AT, JF), Health System Innovation and Research (AT, RH), General Internal Medicine (RH), University of Utah Health Plans (JD), and the Department of Orthopaedics (DB, JF), University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT. a.thackeray@utah.edu.
2
From the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training (AT, JF), Health System Innovation and Research (AT, RH), General Internal Medicine (RH), University of Utah Health Plans (JD), and the Department of Orthopaedics (DB, JF), University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Physical therapy (PT) early in the management of low back pain (LBP) is associated with reductions in subsequent health care utilization and LBP-related costs. The objectives of this study were to 1) Examine differences among newly consulting patients with LBP who received a PT referral and those who did not, 2) examine differences between patients who participated in PT to those who did not, and 3) compare the impact of a PT referral and PT participation on LBP-related health care utilization and costs over 1 year.

METHODS:

This was a retrospective cohort study using electronic medical records and claims data. Participants were 454 Medicaid enrollees with new LBP consultations (mean age, 40.4 years; SD = 12.0; 70% women). Outcomes included advanced imaging, injections, emergency department visits, opioid prescriptions, surgery and LBP-related costs. Variables associated with a PT consult, PT participation, and subsequent outcomes were evaluated with multivariate models.

RESULTS:

A total of 251 (55%) participants received a PT consult within 7 days of the index LBP visit and 81 (19%) participated in PT. The odds of a PT consult were increased if patients were prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (aOR = 1.81; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0 to 3.27; P = .05) or muscle relaxers (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 2.24; 95% CI, 1.03 to 4.87; P = .04). Whereas tobacco users and individual with multiple comorbidities were less likely to receive a PT consult (aOR = 0.52; 95% CI, 0.20 to 0.91) and 0.42 (95% CI, 0.23 to 0.78), respectively). Odds of participating in PT were higher for patients receiving an radiograph at baseline (odds ratio [OR] = 2.63; 95% CI, 1.25 to 5.53) or having multiple comorbidities (OR = 2.96; 95% CI, 1.20 to 7.20). The odds of receiving an opioid prescription over the year following the index visit reduced with a PT consult (aOR = 0.65; 95% CI, 0.43 to 1.00) and with PT participation (aOR = 0.47; 95% CI, 0.24 to 0.92). No differences in LBP related costs over 1 year were noted between any of the groups.

CONCLUSIONS:

Among Medicaid recipients with new-onset LBP, the index provider's prescription and imaging decisions and patient demographics were associated with PT referrals and participation. A referral to PT and subsequent PT participation was associated with reduced opioid prescriptions during follow-up. There was no difference in overall LBP-related health care costs.

KEYWORDS:

Back Pain; Health Services; Opioid Analgesics; Physical Therapy Modalities

PMID:
29180553
DOI:
10.3122/jabfm.2017.06.170064
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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