Orthopedics lean into mental health


Orthopedic surgeons train to treat the musculoskeletal system. In recent years they have also explored ways to address mental health.

This year, Atlanta-based Alliance Spine and Pain Centers mental and behavioral healthcare into their services. The practice implemented a regular behavioral health screening for all of its patients using MHT's SmarTest platform. The platform identifies patients who indicate mental health concerns, and patients are asked if they would like to speak with a clinician at behavioral health provider LifeStance Health, an MHT partner.

Since launching the platform, Alliance Spine has screened 8,002 patients, and 21% were flagged for mental health concerns. 

Hospitals are also exploring ways to address mental health in orthopedic patients. In October, Wysa, an artificial intelligence-guided mental health platform, was launched at The Living Well Center of Washington University in St. Louis, Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and the University of California San Francisco's orthopedic department.

Research has shown that mental health and orthopedic patient outcomes can be connected, Jose Canseco, MD, PhD, of Philadelphia-based Rothman Orthopaedic Institute said.

"We did publish a study a couple of years ago where we're looking at patients that were diagnosed with some form of psychiatric disorder, either anxiety or depression and if that affected their outcomes in spine surgery," he told Becker's. "We found people with a co-diagnosis of depression or anxiety have worse outcomes after spine surgery, and it is all related to the way that they see their disease progressing. If you're depressed and you're in pain even after surgery, you're going to feel worse than if you're not depressed after surgery. Right now for patients with anxiety and depression, we try to communicate with their primary care providers or with their mental health providers and see if there's any optimization they can get prior to surgery."

Dr. Canseco is also the principal investigator of a study underway that is looking into cognitive behavioral therapy in orthopedic patients using virtual reality technology. 

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