May 11, 2024 • 9 min read

Insurer policy transform care for NSW back pain patients

Learn how new insurer policies in New South Wales are enhancing care for back pain patients with innovative treatment approaches for better health outcomes.

Written by: Stephen Zeng

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) of New South Wales has taken a bold step forward in the management of low back pain, an ailment affecting a significant portion of the population. Through an updated Model of Care, SIRA aims to revolutionise how back pain is treated, with a strong emphasis on improving the health, quality of life, and social outcomes for individuals experiencing this condition.

1. Overview of SIRA’s Mission for Low Back Pain Management

  • SIRA’s primary goal is to enhance the overall well-being of people suffering from low back pain by implementing best-practice recommendations.
  • The authority is dedicated to ensuring that patients receive value-based healthcare, which focuses on the early assessment, management, review, and appropriate referral of back injuries.

2. What is the Updated Model of Care?

The Updated Model of Care is SIRA’s response to the need for an evidence-based, patient-centered approach to low back pain management.

It seeks to:

  • Support patients by promoting the early and effective treatment of back injuries, emphasising the importance of quick recovery and return to work or usual activities.
  • Empower individuals in their recovery journey by encouraging self-management and providing them with the tools to actively participate in their care.
  • Ensure timely access to the right care, potentially reducing the duration patients spend within health and compensation schemes​​.

3. Stakeholder Engagement in SIRA’s Model of Care Update

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority’s (SIRA) commitment to refining the management of low back pain in New South Wales extends beyond the development of a new Model of Care. 

An important aspect of this initiative has been the comprehensive engagement with a diverse range of stakeholders, ensuring the model reflects a wide array of perspectives and expertise.

4. Stakeholder Engagement Process

SIRA’s consultation process was inclusive, drawing input from across the health, insurance, and academic sectors. This collaborative approach underscores the importance of a multifaceted perspective in healthcare reform.

Over 234 submissions were received from various stakeholders, including the Australian Physiotherapy Association, Australian Psychological Society, chiropractors, physiotherapists, insurers, and individual health practitioners. This broad participation highlights the community’s vested interest in improving care for low back pain​​. 

5. Feedback from Stakeholder and SIRA’s Response

“By valuing the input of a broad range of experts and community members, SIRA aims to ensure the model not only meets clinical best practices but also addresses the practical needs and concerns of those it serves.”

The feedback from stakeholders was instrumental in shaping the final model, with SIRA identifying key themes that informed subsequent amendments:

  • Terminology Changes: A significant portion of the feedback centered around the terminology used within the model. Some stakeholders advocated for more specific terms, such as replacing “physical therapies” with “physiotherapy” to better reflect the scope of care provided. 
    • However, SIRA decided to retain broader terms like “physical therapies” and “allied health professionals” to ensure the model’s inclusivity. This decision was based on the rationale that a wider term encompasses the diverse range of professionals contributing to patient care, promoting a multidisciplinary approach to treatment​​.
  • Clinical Practice Adjustments: Stakeholders also suggested modifications to clinical practices outlined in the model, aiming to enhance patient care pathways.
    • SIRA incorporated feedback into the model, emphasising evidence-based treatments and the importance of a Cognitive Behavioural Approach in managing low back pain. Such adjustments reflect SIRA’s commitment to adopting best practices and addressing stakeholders’ concerns​​.
    • In Cognitive Behavioural Approach (CBT), the cognitive aspect involves focusing on your thoughts, while the behavioural part addresses your actions. The therapist will assist in identifying and transforming negative thoughts related to back pain into positive ones, leading to healthier behaviours.

Sources mentioned:

*The details in this article were correct and current when it was written. However, changes in business practices, policies, and other pertinent areas may have occurred since then. Readers should confirm the current validity of the content on their own.

Stephen Zeng
Stephen is the director and the principal writer at AusRehab, leading workplace rehabilitation provider, with a focus on addressing and resolving workplace injuries.

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