Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care: Utilization and Electronic Medical Record Capture

The Chiro.Org Blog

SOURCE:   Am J Manag Care. 2015 (Jul 1); 21 (7): e414-21 ~ FULL TEXT

Charles Elder, MD, MPH; Lynn DeBar, PhD, MPH;
Cheryl Ritenbaugh, PhD, MPH; et. al

Kaiser Permanente Northwest,
Center for Health Research,
3800 N Interstate Ave,
Portland, OR 97227

This recent study, published in the American Journal of Managed Care, underscores why so many chiropractic patients have to go “out of network” in order to get the care they need: Managed care appears to be be effectively locking them out. This study reviews chiropractic and acupuncture utilization by adults with chronic musculoskeletal pain at Kaiser Permanente Northwest, an HMO.

Evidently, physician referral for acupuncture is strictly limited to chronic pain complaints, while referral for chiropractic benefits is limited to acute pain. This is why 43-54% of those individuals who sought chiropractic care had to seek “out-of-plan” (aka out-of-pocket) care.

Physician referrals within this Kaiser program was tipped in favor of acupuncture, with 55% of them being referred for care, versus only 9% of the chiropractic patients.

Thanks to Dynamic Chiropractic for their brief review of this study!

OBJECTIVES:   To describe acupuncture and chiropractic use among patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) at a health maintenance organization, and explore issues of benefit design and electronic medical record (EMR) capture.

STUDY DESIGN:   Cross-sectional survey.

METHODS:   Kaiser Permanente members meeting EMR diagnostic criteria for CMP were invited to participate. The survey included questions about self-identified presence of chronic musculoskeletal pain, use of acupuncture and chiropractic care, use of ancillary self-care modalities, and communication with conventional medicine practitioners. Analysis of survey data was supplemented with a retrospective review of EMR utilization data.

RESULTS:   Of 6068 survey respondents, 32% reported acupuncture use, 47% reported chiropractic use, 21% used both, and 42% used neither. For 25% of patients using acupuncture and 43% of those using chiropractic care, utilization was undetected by the EMR. Thirty-five percent of acupuncture users and 42% of chiropractic users did not discuss this care with their health maintenance organization (HMO) clinicians. Among chiropractic users, those accessing care out of plan were older (P < .01), were more likely to use long-term opioids (P = .03), and had more pain diagnoses (P = .01) than those accessing care via clinician referral or self-referral. For acupuncture, those using the clinician referral mechanism exhibited these same characteristics.

CONCLUSIONS:   A majority of participants had used acupuncture, chiropractic care, or both. While benefit structure may materially influence utilization patterns, many patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain use acupuncture and chiropractic care without regard to their insurance coverage. A substantial percentage of acupuncture and chiropractic use thus occurs beyond detection of EMR systems, and many patients do not report such care to their HMO clinicians.

Better acupuncture and chiropractic integration could offer potential opportunities for improved management algorithms and more efficient utilization of resources. The potential for these 2 types of care to serve as noninvasive alternatives to pharmacologic and procedural interventions, or as tools to facilitate the reduction of chronic pharmacotherapy, would seem to warrant further investigation.

Read the rest of this Full Text article now!