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Perspective

A Pain in the Neck? There’s an App for That

July 02, 2019| By Ian Prangley, Co-founder and Health Director, TrackActive (guest contributor) | L/H General Industry | English

TrackActive is a startup with an evidence-based application that uses artificial intelligence to allow individuals to manage and prevent musculoskeletal pain. Our company works in collaboration with Gen Re, and we aim to bring our mHealth solution to group and individual disability income (DI) products in markets around the world.

We founded TrackActive as musculoskeletal conditions are a leading cause of DI claims and account for the greatest number of years lived with disability of any health condition globally. Neck and back pain are also a very frequent cause of workplace absence.

Prior to working with Gen Re, we launched a practitioner-to-patient technology service in 2015. This mobile health (mHealth) solution allows a health practitioner to pass rehabilitation content to a patient via a mobile application, with feedback on recovery progress passing in the other direction. This traditional rehabilitation service gives us significant insights into the beneficial impact of exercise on spinal pain and musculoskeletal dysfunction, and it’s this practical knowledge that forms the basis of our new digital product, TrackActive Me.

In the TrackActive Me app, a chatbot diagnoses the aetiology of the user’s pain, and through clinical decision-making algorithms, delivers personalised advice and exercise programmes. For healthy individuals, it assesses their risk for developing a painful condition, and provides them with interventions to prevent a problem from developing or worsening. As the app collects data, machine-learning methods are implemented to provide highly personalised and effective interventions.

Prior to developing TrackActive Me, we knew that almost 30% of disease-specific apps tackled mental health but only 7% addressed musculoskeletal problems. Furthermore, in our opinion, many of those available either lacked a credible evidence-basis or could not be personalised to the individual users’ needs. We designed TrackActive Me to put this right.

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The statistics on the impact of musculoskeletal pain are telling. Public Health England data shows musculoskeletal problems cause the loss of 30 million working days every year; that’s 22% of all sickness absence. Around 10 million people in England and Scotland experience persistent back pain, and associated depression is four times more likely in those with persistent pain, presenting other potential comorbidity costs to employers and insurers.

The benefit of maximising and maintaining employee health is clear and investment into innovative wellbeing solutions is growing. More companies are looking for ways to help their employees deal with musculoskeletal conditions. This evolution of workplace benefits is taking place in parallel with a trend for consumers to self-care using mHealth applications.

The popularity of smartphones, coupled with a strong consumer appetite for digital health products, suggests that mHealth applications are also well-suited to Disability claims intervention: they’re convenient and have the potential for high penetration. By addressing known critical factors for successful adoption, TrackActive Me can be implemented as part of an employee health programme or as a tool within group or individual DI.

Frequent data collection ensures that user improvements are realised (or referrals made to a health practitioner if improvements are slower than expected). Upon resolution of their pain, users continue to engage with the application, receiving advice and exercise programmes to maintain their musculoskeletal health.

TrackActive has been conducting pilots as well as using focus groups, surveys, and engagement and outcome data to assess the app’s performance prior to full-scale implementation. If you want to find out more contact ian@activehealthtech.com, or speak to your local Gen Re representative.

About the author

Ian Prangley is the Health Director and Co-founder of Active Health Tech. Ian is a physiotherapist who has worked with the Australian Institute of Sport and independently with various elite athletes. He is a consultant at the Centre for Health and Human Performance in London and has Masters degrees in Sports Physiotherapy, Exercise Science and Business Administration.

 

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