People with low back pain are on path to recovery

By Andrew Ross, Clinical Coordinator Low Back Triage Program

Did you know?

  • 70 to 80 % of adults experience low back pain (LBP) at least once in their life.
  • LBP is one of the most common reasons to see a primary care provider (PCP).
  • Often patients with LBP seek care from PCPs and emergency departments, and are referred for costly and often medically unnecessary, diagnostic imaging and/or specialist consults.
  • Approximately 75 to 85 % of patients referred to a spine surgeon in Canada are non-surgical candidates, and wait times are often lengthy (18 to 24 months in some cases).
  • Many patients on a surgeon’s wait list are not receiving more appropriate non-operative treatment options while waiting, placing them at greater risk of developing chronic LBP.
  • Many are left disappointed at the end of a long wait when they are told they are not a surgical candidate.

Back pain is a prevalent problem in Canada.

Pilot project goes Horizon wide

That’s why the New Brunswick Inter-Professional Spine Assessment and Education Clinics (NB-ISAEC) was designed as a pilot project at Horizon’s The Moncton Hospital and Saint John Regional Hospital.

The pilot ran from 2018 to 2020 with a goal to improve on the current model of care for patients with LBP. It was based on a model developed and researched in Ontario, and after a successful pilot has now been permanently approved across Horizon.

The NB-ISAEC is simple. All a patient needs is a referral from an approved primary care provider. The clinics provide an LBP assessment for patients – it is conducted by specially trained physiotherapists within two weeks of obtaining a referral from their PCP.

Based on the assessment findings, patients are provided with:

  • Education regarding their condition,
  • Evidence-based self-management strategies, and
  • Personalized exercise programs.

This empowers patients to better manage their condition on their own. Physiotherapists screen patients to see if a surgical consultation is needed, and if it is, they can assist in obtaining more streamlined access to specialist care.

The results

Early triage and assessment can improve the outcomes of LBP patients. Delays in the onset of care can result in a patient’s health deteriorating, as well as additional health care costs.

Your PCP refers patients to the clinic. They obtain referral privileges by completing an online learning program through Horizon.

The NB-ISAEC has proven effective in getting patients more timely access to evidence-based care, improving pain ratings, decreasing disability and anxiety associated with LBP, and reducing the risk for chronic LBP.

The Top 7 benefits of NB-ISAEC:

  1. Ensure timely access to appropriate care for patients with LBP and related symptoms,
  2. Reduce prevalence of unmanageable chronic LBP,
  3. Reduce (or eliminate) unnecessary imaging in the management of LBP,
  4. Reduce unnecessary specialist referrals,
  5. Reduce wait times for those who truly require specialist consultation,
  6. Improve overall patient outcomes, and
  7. Improve patient and PCP satisfaction.

Take it from one of our patients who told us they were so grateful to have access to a rapid-assessment clinic, rather than waiting months for an MRI.

“This was a real help as I was lacking the knowledge! God bless my physio! I am 100 per cent pleased with my visit, the exercises have really helped,” one patient told us.

PCPs are satisfied with the program, as well because by referring patients to the NB-ISAEC, they’re self-managing pain and taking some pressure off the health care system.

“I love this program! It is the most relevant resource that has been added to my practice in a long time!”

How to access

If you think you may be a candidate for this program, all you have to do is ask your family doctor or nurse practitioner about NB-ISAEC. For them to refer you to the clinic, they need to have completed a quick online learning.

Click here for more information on the NB-ISAEC.

Andrew graduated from Dalhousie University in 2006 with a degree in physiotherapy, following completion of his kinesiology degree in 2003. Since completing his education, he has worked in a variety of settings including with WorkSafeNB, private practice and in the hospital setting.

He has extensive experience treating patients with low-back pain and related symptoms and has completed numerous post-graduate courses specific to this patient population.

Andrew has been working with the NB-ISAEC program since 2019 and is now the clinical coordinator for the program for Horizon.