Draft guidance from NICE recommends digital technologies to help lower back pain

New NICE draft guidance has recommended seven digital technologies to help people with non-specific lower back pain, including apps to support communication with a multi-disciplinary team; to provide guided exercise advice with video demonstrations; ‘nudge functions’ to remind people to complete their exercises or fill in questionnaires on their progress; and mindfulness support.

The draft recommendation is intended to help reduce inequalities in access to musculoskeletal services across the UK. NICE notes that other potential benefits include reductions in waiting lists, use of medication, number of appointments required and potential need for surgery.

Patients will be assessed by a GP or other healthcare professional prior to being offered the digital treatments, with some of the apps also offering initial triage and assessment functions with the aim of supporting people to self-refer to the platforms as an additional source of non-pharmacological support.

Will Quince, Health Minister, said: “These apps are yet another example of how technology can be used help patients get the care they need, when they need it. They offer a range of services which will allow patients to manage lower back pain from the comfort of their homes by improving access to musculoskeletal services – which will form a key part of our Major Conditions Strategy. This will help to reduce pressures on the NHS and can help to cut waiting lists – one of the government’s top priorities – and will help people to live happier, healthier lives.”

In August, NICE draft guidance also recommended four digital programmes for weight management services, which enable specialists to provide virtual care via an app or computer.

These recommendations follow the publication of NICE’s “ambitious” transformation plan, covering its intention to “evolve” over the next few years, to meet “the changing needs of the health and care system”, recognising the need to adapt to be able to effectively manage new digital technologies and the “exponential” increase in health and care data.