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New Study Seeks to Prove Innovative Model of Whole-Person Health Care for Osteoarthritis

May 5, 2021

AUSTIN, Texas — New research from Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin aims to demonstrate the value of an innovative health care model that incorporates a whole-person approach to treating osteoarthritis. Developed by clinicians dedicated to transforming health care, the team-based approach focuses on improving patients’ health with a goal of lowering the costs of their care.

Developed by a team at the Musculoskeletal Institute at UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of Dell Med, this innovative approach is referred to among clinicians as an integrated practice unit (IPU). It is designed to provide “360-degree care” to meet the physical, emotional and social needs of patients with a variety of common conditions: back pain, fractures, ligament tears, and hip and knee osteoarthritis.

In a three-year study, researchers will examine care and related costs for hip and knee osteoarthritis patients at the Musculoskeletal Institute. A chronic, slowly progressing condition that affects more than 32 million U.S. adults, osteoarthritis can severely affect mental health and quality of life. The institute’s multidisciplinary care team considers a patient’s psychosocial issues and weighs other treatment options along with total joint replacement surgery.

“Core to the mission of Dell Medical School is developing, implementing and disseminating innovative models of care that align with the interests of patients and society,” said Kevin Bozic, M.D., MBA, chair of Dell Med’s Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care. “This study gives us the opportunity to fulfill that mission by further disseminating a new model of care that could impact millions of people who suffer from disabling arthritis of the hip or knee.”

High-Tech Measurements Aimed at Illustrating Value to Patients

Patients and clinicians are illustrated interacting in varying scenarios.

Patients and clinicians will wear devices that use a real-time location system to track their interactions and calculate the costs of care.

Specifically, the team will use advanced technology to continuously monitor clinician and patient movements and interactions to calculate the costs of caring for patients with osteoarthritis of the hips and knees. A real-time location system will collect and compare data from the Musculoskeletal Institute and a more traditional orthopaedic care provider. The study will track costs relative to patient outcomes, including activity levels and general health — along with more traditional metrics such as readmissions and use of services.

The study is being funded by a $2.26 million gift from the Bass Family Foundation. Eric Bass, an investment professional, earned a bachelor’s in business administration from UT Austin in 1998. The gift will fund technology, support personnel, data collection and analysis.

"Cost effective delivery of quality health care is a critically important policy concern for the country and the world,” said Eric Bass. “We are excited to partner with Dell Med to perform groundbreaking work which has the potential to improve patient outcomes coupled with meaningful cost reductions."

Leading the Dialogue on Health Care Transformation

Clinical leaders from the Musculoskeletal Institute are contributors to the national conversation on achieving high-value, low-cost care. Bozic, along with colleagues Karl Koenig, M.D., M.S., medical director of the Musculoskeletal Institute; and Prakash Jayakumar, M.D., Ph.D., director of value-based care and outcome measurement, serve as invited experts to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to further its work on condition-based bundled payments for osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.

“This study is the next step in measuring the true impact of Dell Med’s pioneering shift in our approach to health through innovation,” Koenig said. “It has the power to transform how people get better, not just for our practice but for clinicians and policymakers across the nation. The Bass family’s foresight and philanthropy will both advance the science and help guide broad-reaching improvements for modern health care.”

The Musculoskeletal Institute has already partnered with Central Health and Ascension Seton to eliminate wait lists for musculoskeletal care among Travis County’s medically underserved population, while simultaneously establishing and growing a center for the treatment of all Central Texans with musculoskeletal problems.

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