One of the major reasons patients are prescribed opioids, which can be highly addictive, is because of musculoskeletal pain. Indeed, about 21% of patients seeking care for musculoskeletal (MSK) pain are prescribed opioids at their initial visit.
“It’s MSK conditions that are a huge driver of patients receiving opioids in the first place and then subsequently developing an opioid use disorder,” said Dr. Mary O’Connor, chief medical officer and co-founder of Vori Health, a virtual MSK provider. “So if you were going to pick one population of patients to target, it would be the MSK population.”
That’s why Vori Health is teaming up with Ophelia, a digital provider of opioid use disorder treatment. The companies announced the partnership last week. Nashville, Tennessee-based Vori Health offers physical medicine and rehabilitation care (which helps restore functional ability), physical therapy, prescriptions, imaging and lab ordering, health coaching, nutrition support and other services. It serves employers and health plans. New York City-based Ophelia primarily works with insurers and offers medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, as well as counseling and behavioral health support.
Through the new partnership, Vori Health will be able to refer its patients who report having an opioid addiction to Ophelia. On the flip side, Ophelia can refer its patients who report having MSK pain to Vori Health for non-opioid treatment. This may include physical therapy, sleep support and pain education. The companies can then collaborate on patients’ care through shared clinical notes.
“When you consider the fact that most of our patients are disengaged with the healthcare system up until they find Ophelia, it’s easy to understand that they’ve got a lot of conditions that have gone untreated for a while,” said Zack Gray, CEO and co-founder of Ophelia. “Their opioid use disorder was top of the priority list but once that is stable and under control, the other problems start to rise to the top of their priority list. We see it as our job to make sure that we can either treat those conditions or help them get treatment for those conditions.”
Gray added that opioids are often needlessly prescribed.
“I think it’s well understood that the opioid epidemic as we know it accelerated with excess prescribing of addictive painkillers over the last decade,” he said. “I say overprescribing because a lot of the prescribing that happened and frankly still happens is unnecessary.”
There is no shared revenue between Vori Health and Ophelia. Instead, the two companies will bill insurance separately for their services. However, Gray and O’Connor noted that this could change in the future and that there may be an opportunity for a deeper partnership.
Ophelia and Vori Health aren’t the only companies in their respective areas. Other virtual companies that treat addiction include Bicycle Health and Boulder Care, which both provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Sword Health and Hinge Health are both digital solutions that support patients with musculoskeletal pain through exercise support and physical therapy.
In working together, Ophelia and Vori Health aim to ultimately drive positive outcomes for patients, O’Connor said.
“If we are helping patients improve their MSK condition and get them off of their opioids, that’s a huge win for the patient, for their family and for their community,” she stated.
Photo: mucahiddin, Getty Images