Shifting from Opioids to Nonpharmacological Strategies

January 11, 2022

Featuring Chun-ju Wang, D.O., Senior Executive Medical Director at WholeHealth Living

After completing my physical medicine and rehabilitation residency in 2004, I worked at an outpatient pain management program where I prescribed physical therapy and opioids for patients suffering from chronic pain. Back then, patients would visit me for prescription refills monthly. Quickly, I observed how ineffective opioids were in managing chronic pain and often led to the patient’s request for higher dosages. This common practice has led to the overprescribing of opioids and fueled the opioid epidemic! Today there are an estimated 10 million people that misuse prescription opioids annually, and 70,630 people died from a drug overdose in 2019 alone.1

I was disheartened to realize that the current treatment path was not working but believed there were better treatment options which led me to WholeHealth Living® where I currently serve as the Sr. Executive Medical Director. After 9 years in this role, I am confident we are making an impact for patients that manage musculoskeletal pain so they can get back to living the life they love.

In my research, I discovered an article that supports the necessary shift in musculoskeletal care delivery. Below are some highlights from the article “Evidence-Based Nonpharmacologic Strategies for Comprehensive Pain Care.”2

  • Low back pain, knee osteoarthritis, and headache are among the most common and costly chronic pain conditions responsible for a significant economic burden on the healthcare system. There have been extensive economic evaluations of acupuncture therapies for pain conditions. Complementary medicine such as acupuncture has been shown to be cost-effective in the treatment of chronic, persistent low back pain.
  • Practitioners licensed in fields such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, and naturopathy provide care that is 60–70% less likely to be reimbursed by the insurance payors compared to other providers who are traditionally reimbursed by health plans such as dentists and psychologists.
  • Coordination of care across disciplines and access to nonpharmacologic care have not been optimized in the current system in most states and territories.

Unfortunately, painful musculoskeletal conditions are a major contributor to medical expenditure.  WholeHealth Living is committed to bridging the gap between members, physical medicine practitioners, health plans, and the broader medical community to increase the understanding and acceptance of Physical Medicine and Integrative Health solutions. Offering these solutions earlier in the care continuum can help reduce opioid use by leveraging treatment modalities that are less invasive, less expensive, and typically pose a lower risk than surgery and medications.3,4

Learn how WholeHealth Living can improve your clinical outcomes, create savings, and enhance the member experience. We specialize in reimbursement management and provide your members with access to a broader network of physical medicine practitioners, as well as integrating non-surgical pain management offerings.