DFW Business Group on Health – War of the Back Pain


The DFW Hospital Council is posting blogs submitted by our Associate Members. The following was provided by the DFW Business Group on Health. For guidelines, please contact Chris Wilson at chrisw@dfwhc.org.

By Donita Doubet, program manager for the Innovative Quality Healthcare Collaboration of the Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health

Back pain is a primary reason for lost time from work and overall decrease in quality of life for many Americans. Given the broad impact, improving the management of low back pain is on the minds of employees, employers, and providers across the county. It has even become an issue for scientists at NASA where astronauts suffer low back pain at a rate four times higher than the national average.

NASA has learned to take low back pain seriously and has commissioned a study through the University of California-San Diego that’s being used to determine how to prevent the problem on the upcoming manned mission to Mars.

Whether your pain is caused from overuse or too much exertion during weekend golf or basketball, or sitting in micro-gravity during a space flight, this is a real problem. There is an emerging nationwide curiosity and excitement around improving patient outcomes — as it relates to low back pain — and the Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health (DFWBGH) is at the leading edge of this movement in North Texas.

Representing over 70 employers with 750,000 North Texas employees and dependents, DFWBGH is launching an initiative supporting the movement toward value-based care, through the Innovative Quality Healthcare Collaboration (IQHC).

The preliminary analysis shows the management of nonspecific low back pain is often treated by adopting a ‘one-size-fits all’ model of care. What’s often missed with this kind of thinking is an inability to separate patients who would see results from advice and/or physical therapy to patients needing further diagnosis and more aggressive treatment.

The Collaborative leverages the collective scale of North Texas employers to work alongside suppliers (physicians and health systems) to improve quality, efficiency and patient safety in our community. Since employers are the ultimate purchasers of health, DFWBGH’s goal is to work more closely with interested suppliers to redesign the current fragmented process of care and to bring a “Six Sigma” approach rooted in evidence-based treatment guidelines. IQHC wants to recognize those physicians and health systems delivering higher quality care, so they are rewarded for their process improvements and results.

Through this effort, we’ll apply research and data to take the very best of existing treatment methods and shape them into targeted approaches and practices that all our employers can use. We want people to be more satisfied with the progress of their care, have less time off work, and improved quality of life.

The more that we can understand the specific techniques to reduce or eliminate pain, heal injuries and delay or avoid expensive, non-needed procedures and be transparent with those tools, the more we can expect better outcomes.

Perhaps we’ll get a call from NASA and our work will help them make the first trip to Mars a pain-free expedition.