AN INVESTMENT RATHER THAN A COST: A NEW APPROACH
• Focusing on investing in prevention and early intervention: preventing disease is far more effective for improving patient well-being and provides better value than treatment
• Exploring new ways to improve patient outcomes while lowering costs such as measuring and tracking outcomes and rethinking how healthcare is supplied and paid for
Catching diseases early in their progression helps to make substantial headway in a transition towards more sustainable care. It can also help to slow the effects of disease, helping patients to stay healthier and in the workforce for longer. Currently, many systems struggle to ensure patients receive quick access to specialist care, meaning conditions worsen and patients suffer while waiting to receive a diagnosis.
The scale of the problem is significant. According to The Work Foundation and its Fit for Work programme, musculoskeletal diseases (MSDs) such as lower back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are represent the single largest cause of sickness leave in the UK. Work-related musculoskeletal diseases were responsible for the loss of 8.8 million working days in 2015 and represented 41% of all work-related illnesses. New Early Intervention clinics are being opened to address MSDs, which are costly to both social welfare programmes and consume precious—and limited—healthcare resources.
Fit for Work estimates that MSDs account for 21.3% of disabilities worldwide and that 44 million European workers have a work-related MSD. This costs the European economy an estimated €240 billion annually in sick leave: the equivalent of 2% of Europe’s GDP.
Spain is also struggling to cope with heavy costs related to MSDs. The country loses about 21 million working days per year to MSDs, representing a loss of €1.7 billion. To find new ways to address this problem, a pilot programme was created to improve patient access to early diagnosis and intervention. Research from Early Intervention MSD clinics in Spain is delivering conclusive evidence of the importance of early intervention for these chronic conditions. When patients receive quick referrals, diagnoses and targeted care, sickness leave is reduced by 39% and permanent disability by 50%. More importantly, patients can go back to leading normal, productive lives.
The Fit for Work Coalition has developed estimates of the effect of repeating the results of the Madrid clinic across 12 EU Member States where comparable data exists. Download the map here.
Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorder Statistics (WRMSDs) in Great Britain 2016
20-pager on the pilots
World Health Organisation. Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment, 2005.
UK Leeds Pilot Programme
Spotlight on Prevention: When, Who and How?
Unhealthy lifestyles and lack of physical activity are key factors in the development of chronic diseases. Early prevention and diagnosis, better education, and above all collaboration among governments, patient organizations, and industry are crucial to prevent chronic diseases from arising.