Posted on 10-16-2016
Increased Access to Chiropractic Care Linked with Lower Healthcare Costs and Better Outcomes
As many avid blog followers already know, I am a Baltimore Chiropractor who spends the majority of my time utilizing chiropractic care to treat headaches, neck pain, and back pain in Baltimore, MD. Whether it be the weekend warrior type, the blue-collar worker, of a Baltimore auto accident injury patient, I have been a licensed chiropractor for almost 8 years and have been helping patients with these conditions since graduation from Chiropractic College in December of 2008.
A recent study highlighted by U.S. News sheds light on what I have long believed and understood, that access to Chiropractic care can not only lower healthcare costs (a burden we all share) but can lead to better outcomes for those patients receiving the care.
A while back I shared the story of how I initially became a chiropractic patient. The short version of it is that I injured my lower back when I was about 18 or 19. I tried the typical regimen of care - stretching at home, over the counter drugs, physical therapy, and consultations with orthopedic surgeons. I was a "failed" back pain patient who was told at 19 that I would need surgery or that I would need to learn to live with the back pain for the rest of my life. At my mother's recommendation I decided to see her chiropractor. I thought that it probably wouldn't help but that if there was a chance it could help, it was a chance I had to take. I had nothing to lose. As the story goes, I was about 80 percent improved in about four treatments. I couldn't believe it. Why did no one tell me that Chiropractic care was an option? Why did "main stream medicine" convince me it was surgery or learn to live with it?
The article in U.S. news points out that I was not alone in my journey to heal my back pain. According to the article Americans as a whole spend nearly $300 billion a year on treatment for pain including musculoskeletal disorders. As you might imagine a lot of this financial burden is spent trying to help people with neck and back pain. That's where Chiropractors come in.
The article notes a study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University that examined how medical occupational licensing laws are affecting the health care market. They found that the broader the scope of practice for chiropractors became and the more their incomes rose, the better the outcomes for patient care and satisfaction became and the less costs there were as a whole. Now why is this?
Generally speaking, family physicians and internists only can practice what they know and what they were trained on. They know medicine and intervention such as surgery. So, when a patient comes to them with these complaints, it is natural for them to recommend medications and then eventually surgery. This leads to increased costs and decreased patient satisfaction. Tied in the with the fact that medical care and interventions are so expensive compared to chiropractic care, its no wonder that healthcare costs are skyrocketing.
Another thing to consider is that typically if paid through health insurance, many primary care physicians need to control care and make referrals. While it is likely that they want what's best for their patients, they are more likely to keep a patient in their system and buying healthcare services from their colleagues than it is that they will refer them to "non main stream" chiropractic providers. That view is largely changing and we are seeing a shift where primary care physicians are referring clients for chiropractic care. Furthermore, in states such as Maryland it is very easy for prospective chiropractic patients to bypass their medical providers directly and have "direct access" to chiropractic evaluation and treatment. It appears as if the monopoly that medicine has had on controlling how patients access care has had a significant impact on healthcare costs and therefore outcomes.
The U.S. News article goes on to state that while allowing a broader scope of practice to Chiropractic care has lead to a measurable effect on the market (as seen in terms of decreased costs and increased health outcomes) the same can not be said for a broader scope of practice for physical therapy.
As a Baltimore Chiropractor I am an advocate for patients getting whatever treatment they need to help with their neck and back pain. In most instances, a short course of conservative chiropractic therapy is appropriate and will bring about resolution of their conditions. In some instances, as I have pointed out in previous blog posts, patients do not improve as expected and are referred quickly and appropriately to other specialists for evaluation and treatment. I believe that it is imperative that my chiropractic colleagues and I spend more time educating the medical professionals in our community of the value that we provide to our patients. If there's evidence that we can help decrease patient suffering while lowering healthcare costs then it is something that we need to do for the good of humanity and the financial solvency of this nation.
If you, or someone you know, has neck or back pain and would like to speak to a Baltimore Chiropractor, please call (443) 842-5500. We would be happy to help!
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