Digital health tech for back pain recommended for NHS use


Seven digital health technologies that could help millions of people with lower back pain have been recommended for NHS in draft guidance published by cost-effectiveness overseer NICE.

An advisory committee to the agency has said that the web and mobile apps should be offered to people aged 16 or over with low back pain that can’t be linked to a particular condition, in a bid to reduce inequalities in access to musculoskeletal services across England.

Low back pain is the biggest cause of disability in the UK, according to the NHS, and musculoskeletal conditions account for nearly a third (30%) of GP consultations every year.

The seven digital health interventions offer a range of support to patients, including access to specialists who can give information and advice on managing low back pain, guided exercises and video demonstrations, and reminders to encourage people to complete exercises or answer questionnaires to track their symptoms.

Some offer access to pain specialists and psychologists, or a programme of video tutorials on managing pain, and mindfulness sessions, according to NICE.

The draft recommendation follows a string of others in the last couple of years backing the use of digital technologies that can be used to tackle conditions, including overweight and obesity, anxiety and depression, that absorb a lot of NHS resources.

It comes as waiting lists in England for elective treatments have reached a record level of 7.75 million as of the end of August, 100,000 more than the prior month.

“More than two million people suffer from low back pain each year and there are considerable pressures on NHS services to provide the treatment and care to those needing support with this debilitating condition,” said NICE’s interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation Mark Chapman.

“The digital platforms our committee has recommended could provide the NHS with extra capacity to get those affected off waiting lists, which vary in length across the country, and into treatment,” he added.

The early value assessment (EVA) document published by NICE today covers the following digital technologies:

  • ACT for PAIN (company states CE mark or UKCA not required)
  • getUBetter (company states CE mark or UKCA in place)
  • Hinge Health (company states it is in the process of getting regulatory approval)
  • Kaia (regulatory status unknown)
  • Pathway through Pain (company states CE mark or UKCA in place)
  • selfBACK (regulatory status unknown)
  • SupportBack (regulatory status unknown).

They can be used once they have appropriate regulatory approval and meet the standards within NHS England’s Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC), said NICE. Two others – Ascenti Reach and Phio Engage – are covered in the document but can only be used in research for now as limited information is available.

A consultation on the recommendations has been open and will continue until 25th October.

Image by Arpit from Pixabay