St. Luke’s Comprehensive Spine Program: Getting Back-Pain Patients Relief Faster

Hospitals in Pennsylvania are constantly innovating to improve the quality of care they deliver to patients. St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Comprehensive Spine program, launched in August 2018, is a perfect example.

Comprehensive Spine is a new back and neck pain treatment program that was designed to avoid costly ER visits, X-rays, and potentially addictive opioid prescriptions, as well as unnecessary surgeries.

“We see a lot of back pain patients—it’s actually one of the leading diagnoses of patients that we see here,” Ben Richter, manager of Comprehensive Spine, said. “As a network, we realized that there was an opportunity to improve quality of care for this population.”

Richter said that before the implementation of this program there was no standardized method of care for back-pain patients, resulting in different treatment plans depending on where the case was presented.

“Being such a large health network, we have so many qualified services to treat back pain, but as a patient, when you have back pain, you might not know where to go, whether it is the ER or to your primary care doctor,” Richter said. “This program was created to really streamline the process and help standardize the care and the treatment paths for this back pain population.”

Comprehensive Spine takes a physical therapy-first approach to acute back pain, and it is one of a handful of health care systems nationwide that offers such a program thanks to its extensive network of physical therapy locations and expert physical therapists. With 50 physical therapy locations, the Comprehensive Spine program can offer back-pain patients treatment within 24 to 48 hours.

For most patients suffering from back pain or other spine-related issues, physical therapy leads to reduced pain and better movement within four to six weeks, sometimes requiring only one or two appointments.

Patients experiencing back pain can call Comprehensive Spine and talk to a skilled triage nurse, who can expedite the process to relief—saving patients’ time, money, and unnecessary doctor visits.

“We have a team of qualified nurses who are well versed in spinal issues. They go through a screening tool with the spinal patient to determine what service the patient would benefit from the most,” Richter said.

“The Comprehensive Spine program was really made to be a resource for patients. They have back pain, they call in, and the triage nurses put them in touch with the right service that they need at the right time,” Richter said.

The program doesn’t just benefit back-pain patients.

“We wanted the Comprehensive Spine program to be a resource for providers as well,” Richter said. “For instance, if a patient did take the ER route for back pain treatment, now the emergency room professionals have a resource they can use by submitting a referral and getting the patient in touch with our comprehensive program.”

By paying attention to the needs of the community it serves, St. Luke’s developed an innovative program that fits those needs by improving the quality of care for patients suffering from back pain.