Taking the Proactive Approach to Healthcare with Tim Spooner
After over 35 years of experience as a physical therapist, Tim Spooner was happy just to continue helping his patients. On any given day, he could treat a tennis champion, a 71-year-old downhill skier, or a grandmother looking for help to play with her grandchildren.
Recently he could not ignore an alarming trend: his patients (and their employers) were seeing skyrocketing healthcare costs. The leading cost in a health plan is Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). Health care premiums for his patients have steadily increased while payouts from healthcare insurance companies have simultaneously decreased. This discrepancy results in wasteful overspending by employers and many aspects of insurance plans effectively limit people from promptly receiving care for their pain. Almost as bad, it was significantly reducing the financial health of millions of Americans. In his interview with Top Doctor Magazine, Tim Spooner discusses his solutions to this problem and how he is disrupting the current healthcare model with his company, Proactive MSD.
Employees are Your Number One Asset
Spooner starts by saying, “I have never met a single CEO that didn’t tell me, ‘Our people are our greatest asset.’” Despite this, every year, thousands of employers in the United States are losing employees and money to the number one cause of disability, Musculoskeletal Disorders. “Everyone twists their back, strains a muscle, or tweaks a joint during work or recreational activities.” Spooner says that 85% of these pain issues can be solved with conservative care, but because of insurance barriers, these patients are either not seeking care or not receiving the correct intervention. Taking it even further, he says that left untreated, these problems will worsen and individuals may choose to seek self-medication with an extremely high risk of opioid addiction.
Only One Out of Ten Patients Gets Referred for MSDs
Tim Spooner describes the current healthcare model as “dangerously wasteful.” The overspending affects both his patients’ health and their employers’ bottom line. Health insurance companies have steadily increased their deductibles and patients may spend several visits to a primary care doctor or a specialist before they even get to the physical therapist’s office. This delay in receiving care means the patient suffers longer and also tends to lead to more costly interventions.
It’s a Biomechanical Problem
Spooner’s company, Proactive MSD (a joint venture with Solveglobal), takes a disruptive approach to the current system. By offering a complete population health strategy for MSD’s at a fixed cost, they help employers decrease wasteful overspending on healthcare. This pricing model targets self insured employers looking for a transparent price and reduced run-around time due to multiple appointments from medical doctors. “Most MSD’s start as a biomechanical problem, not a medical one.” Proactive MSD’s goal: Right Care, Right Time, Right Provider, Right Value. When employers fix their healthcare costs and eliminate barriers to services, their employees are more likely to receive prompt medical attention. This proactive approach decreases expensive interventions which drive up health insurance premiums.
No One Industry Is Good at Everything
The late Clayton Christensen studied hospitals and found that only 1 out of every 10 dollars in a large system actually goes towards patient care. Hospitals are trying to be good at everything, and end up being a large driver of waste and inefficiency. Proactive MSD focuses its efforts on creating a Data-Centric, Risk and Opportunity Analysis for company leadership to determine the specific health risks a business faces, and to reduce wasteful costs found in expensive testing, limited accessibility, rigid appointments, and other traditional “reactive” approaches. Proactive MSD also uses confidential, monthly workforce engagement surveys, and the data reveals the opportunities for MSD intervention.
Not All Therapies are Created Equal
After over three decades of patient care, Tim Spooner has noticed many individuals and large organizations assume that all physical therapists deliver equal results . It is not unusual for patients to stop attending physical therapy after only two or three visits. He attributes this to several reasons. As healthcare providers, there is a need to connect with patients and their goals. There is a need to educate patients on the recovery process and the timetables involved. As therapists, there is a need to be flexible to changing symptoms and adjust the movement prescription to obtain the desired results.
Spooner got into physical therapy through a background in sports, experience with exercise, and a love of teaching. Although the work can be demanding both physically and mentally, seeing patients achieve their goals is very satisfying. Today’s disruptive healthcare environment will create many new and financially rewarding opportunities for those entering the physical therapy profession.
Physical Therapy of the Future
Many innovations are moving the industry forward. Telehealth has allowed Spooner to treat patients during the COVID-19 pandemic safely. “Telehealth has been very useful in reaching patients who could not access facilities and those that travel for work. I expect this trend to continue as patients expect greater convenience and value from their healthcare providers.
Proactive MSD’s disruptive business model is enticing business owners to recalibrate their healthcare spend. “We reallocate what employers are currently spending and help their employees move and feel better.” In return, the employer saves on wasteful overspending and can deliver higher wages and additional benefits to employees. These direct contracts between healthcare providers, such as Proactive MSD, and employers are helping to reshape how healthcare is both delivered and received.