An independent NICE committee evaluating the seven digital technologies said they could be offered to people aged 16 and over with non-specific lower back pain. Some apps are designed to help people with new back pain and others for people who have had this problem for more than 3 months and some apps help both groups.
The apps offer a variety of supports, including:
- access to a multidisciplinary team to answer questions/give advice via video or email/messages
- Guided exercise tips with video demonstrations
- Nudge features to encourage and remind people to complete tasks such as completing quizzes or their exercises
Some offer access to psychological treatment, including access to pain specialists and psychologists, or a pain management video tutorial program and mindfulness sessions.
The digital platforms recommendation project aims to reduce inequalities in access to musculoskeletal services across the country. Other benefits envisaged include reducing waiting lists, the number of appointments with GPs and physiotherapists, the use of medication and the potential need for surgery.
The technologies – which are web applications and digital platforms – can be used by NHS patients while further evidence will be generated over the next three years to assess their clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. Evidence will be generated in several areas, including how long people use the apps before they feel better to return to normal activities.
A patient would be assessed by a GP or other healthcare professional before being offered the digital treatments. Some applications offer triage and initial assessment, allowing people with symptoms of low back pain to self-refer to the platforms as additional support for non-pharmacological treatment.
THE NHS Long Term Plan states that lower back pain is the leading cause of disability. Musculoskeletal conditions represent 30% of general practitioner consultations each year and according to UKHSA9.11 million people suffer from long-term back pain in England.
Mark Chapman, Acting Director of Medical Technology and Digital Assessment at NICE, said: “More than two million people suffer from lower back pain each year and considerable pressure is placed on NHS services to provide treatment and care to those who need support for this debilitating condition.
“The digital platforms recommended by our committee could provide the NHS with additional capacity to get affected people off waiting lists, which vary in length across the country, and into treatment.
“We believe these technologies have the potential to provide value for money for taxpayers, while providing people with lower back pain faster access to the care they need, when and where they want. . »
Health Minister Will Quince said: “These apps are another example of how technology can be used to help patients get the care they need, when they need it.”
“They offer a range of services that will allow patients to manage their lower back pain in the comfort of their own home by improving access to musculoskeletal services – which will be a key part of our major illness strategy.”
“This will help reduce pressures on the NHS and can help reduce waiting lists – one of the Government’s main priorities – and help people live happier, healthier lives.”
NICE guidelines on low back pain and sciatica in over 16s: assessment and management recommends self-management of low back pain, exercise, manual therapies, psychological therapy, combined physical and psychological programs as well as return to work programs.
The technologies recommended in today’s draft guidance can be used once they have obtained appropriate regulatory approval and meet the standards of NHS England’s Digital Technology Assessment Criteria.
A consultation on the recommendations is now open to nice.org.uk until Wednesday October 25, 2023.