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Ontario’s Low Back Pain Strategy

November 26, 2014

Ontario is moving forward with an expansion of its Low Back Pain Strategy to better serve patients and ensure health care dollars are allocated appropriately.

Thousands of people in Ontario suffer from low back pain. Acute low back pain is a common health problem affecting between 50 and 90 per cent of people over the course of their lifetime.

As part of Ontario’s commitment to improve access and availability of quality health care closer to home, our government is investing $2.3 million over two years in seven Local Health Integration Networks to help primary care organizations across Ontario improve low back pain services.

The Primary Care Low Back Pain Pilot program supports the integration of allied health providers such as chiropractors, physiotherapists, kinesiologist, occupational therapists and registered massage therapists. Working with existing primary care inter-disciplinary teams, they can deliver more patient-centred, appropriate low back pain care.

This initiative is one of two new models of care that will help ensure patients with low back pain receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

The second model, the Inter-professional Spine Assessment and Education Clinics Pilot, was launched in 2012 by the University Health Network in Toronto, Thunder Bay and Hamilton. It introduced rapid assessment and education centres for patients coping with non-acute low back pain.

Ontario’s three-pronged Low Back Pain Strategy also includes:

Evidence-based changes to imaging requirements

Findings from a number of research studies, clinical practice guidelines and expert panel recommendations show that diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs are not useful in treating chronic low back pain, unless there are specific signs of a serious underlying injury or disease. According to Back Care Canada, about 90 per cent of back pain is benign – that is, not caused by a serious underlying injury or disease.

On April 1, 2012, the OHIP Schedule of Benefits for doctors was revised specifying that spine imaging tests should only be ordered when a serious issue like an infection or cancer is suspected. This change has reduced the number of unnecessary diagnostic tests and improved access for patients most in need of these services.

Educational tools to help providers and patients

Educating both primary care providers and patients is a key component of the Low Back Pain Strategy. Ontario has launched a number of clinical tools and resources to improve both provider and patient understanding of low back pain. These include an education program and online clinical tools for referring primary care providers and a patient video focussed on self-management techniques.

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Results

Since introducing Ontario’s Low Back Pain Strategy, by reducing the number of unnecessary diagnostic testing, the volume of spine imaging has decreased by 18.5 per cent, resulting in savings of approximately $15 million, while still maintaining access to quality care, close to home.

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Media Contacts:

Gabe De Roche, Minister’s Office, 416-327-4306 

David Jensen, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 416-314-6197


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Ontario Expanding Care for Low Back Pain Patients

New Sites to Reduce Wait Times and Provide Better Care Closer to Home

NEWS November 26, 2014 

Ontario is improving access and availability of health care services for more Ontarians who suffer from low back pain.

As part of the expansion of Ontario’s Low Back Pain Strategy, the province is launching a pilot project which builds on efforts to provide better access to appropriate, cost-effective, patient- centred care.

Ontario is providing $2.3 million over two years to seven Local Health Integration Networks to help primary care organizations deliver timely, appropriate, high-quality low back pain services: The following organizations will be participating in the pilot:
  • City Centre Health Care in Windsor in partnership with Essex Court Nurse Practitioner-Led
  • Clinic in Essex
  • A partnership between Family Health Teams in Mount Forest, East Wellington and Minto-Mapleton
  • Couchiching Family Health Team in Orillia
  • TAIBU Community Health Centre in Scarborough
  • Shkagamik-Kwe Aboriginal Health Access Centre in Sudbury
  • Belleville Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic
  • Centre du santeĢ communautaire de l’Estrie

These organizations will be able to provide additional hours for a range of allied health providers such as chiropractors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, kinesiologists and registered massage therapists to:

  • Provide faster, more accurate assessment of low back pain problems
  • Use a more holistic approach to treating patients suffering from low back pain 
  • Educate patients on low back pain self-management techniques
  • Refer patients to an appropriate health care provider as needed

Expanding low back pain services supports Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care and is part of the government's four-part economic plan to build Ontario up by investing in people's talents and skills, building new public infrastructure like roads and transit, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives, and building a secure savings plan so everyone can afford to retire.

QUOTES

“Improving the quality and delivery of treatment for low back pain can make a life-changing difference to thousands of people in the province. Expanding the availability of low back pain supports means that more Ontarians will get the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”
— Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

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QUICK FACTS

  • Since April 2012, Ontario has invested more than $4 million to improve the quality and availability of low back pain supports across the province.
  • Acute low back pain is a common health problem affecting more than half of all Ontarians over the course of their lifetime. For most people, getting an imaging test such as x-ray, CT scan or MRI will not help assess or treat low back pain.
  • About 90 per cent of back pain is benign – that is, not caused by a serious underlying injury or disease.
  • Since the launch of the strategy in 2012, there has been an 18.5 per cent decrease in the number of patients being sent for unnecessary x-rays, CT scans or MRIs – resulting in savings of approximately $15 million.

LEARN MORE

For public inquiries call ServiceOntario, INFOline at 1-866-532-3161 (Toll-free in Ontario only)

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Media Contacts:
Gabe De Roche, Minister’s Office, 416-327-4306
David Jensen, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 416-314-6197


ontario.ca/health-news