Can patient education reduce medical costs?

The U.S. spends $50 billion per year treating low back pain.

Faced with an aging population and a rising cost of medical care, it is critical that the health care industry explores all available options to reduce spending while still providing quality patient care. 

According to the National Institute of Health, Americans spend over $50 billion annually on treating lower back pain. Not only are the costs expected to rise as the population ages, the condition is also the leading cause of job-related disability, draining funds from American organizations and insurers. 

However, a recent study performed by the International Spine Pain Institute in Story City, Iowa and published in the journal Spine may have uncovered a novel strategy to reduce the cost of lower back pain. Adriaan Louw, Ph.D, the lead author of the study, argues that pain education can help patients who are undergoing lumbar radiculopathy surgery experience better outcomes and faster recovery. 

The study found that patients who received pain education before the procedure on average used 45 less medical tests and treatments during the following year, for a savings of over $2,100 per patient. 

"Our study showed that our patients had similar pain and function than people who did not get pain education, but despite this, they statistically rated their surgical experience as more successful and felt less compelled to seek medical care (treatment and tests) for their pain," Dr. Louw said in an online interview with Guardian Liberty Voice.

Care facilities that are currently experiencing issues with accounts receivable management might consider making patient education a part of their pre-procedure process. However, with this strategy, it could be months before practices start seeing an improvement. A decision to outsource receivables management can provide much more immediate relief and improve cash flow.