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Healthcare utilization for musculoskeletal disorders


Objective — To examine patterns of ambulatory care and hospital utilization for people with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including arthritis and related conditions, bone and spinal conditions, trauma and related conditions, and unspecified MSDs.

Methods — Administrative data from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan database for ambulatory care physician visits, the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System database for day (outpatient) surgeries and emergency department visits, and the Discharge Abstract Database for hospital discharges were used to examine healthcare utilization for MSDs in fiscal year 2006-2007. Person visit rates (number of people with physician visits or hospital encounters per population) were calculated.

Results — Overall, 22.3% of Ontario's population (2.8 million persons) saw a physician for an MSD in ambulatory settings. Person visit rates were highest for arthritis and related conditions (107.7 per 1,000 population), followed by trauma and related conditions (89.6 per 1,000 population), unspecified MSDs (71.0 per 1,000 population), and bone and spinal conditions (62.4 per 1,000 population). The majority of visits were to primary care physicians, with 83.2% of those with visits for all MSDs seeing a primary care physician at least once. Overall, 33.0% of people with a physician visit for an MSD saw a specialist, with orthopedic surgeons being the most commonly consulted type of specialist. In hospital settings, person visit rates for MSDs were highest in the emergency department, followed by day surgeries and inpatient hospitalizations.

Conclusion — The findings of our study highlight the magnitude of healthcare utilization for MSDs and the central role of primary care physicians in the management of these conditions.



MacKay C, Canizares M, Davis AM, Badley EM. Arthritis Care Res. 2010; 62(2):161-9.

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