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Tech firm to tackle back pain as remote working takes its toll

A Scottish tech firm is making its “digital triage” service available free to the public to deal with what it predicts will be a surge in neck and back problems among employees working from home.

PhysioMedics, which trades under the name of its PhysioWizard platform, is offering its online self-assessment tool direct to the public at no charge for the next three months. The company says it will receive no revenue from referrals or any other charges to patients, and hopes to alleviate a backlog of complaints that the NHS would struggle to cope with.

PhysioWizard is normally sold to occupational health care providers who in turn make it available to company employees to help manage conditions and seek appropriate help. It has been shown to replicate a physiotherapist’s assessment with 93 per cent clinical accuracy and provides information on what to do next, ranging from advice on remedial exercises through to a referral to healthcare professionals.

With more than a third of the working population now doing so from home, PhysioWizard said many are developing muscle and joint problems through a combination of factors. These include poor working postures, physical deconditioning during lockdown, and increases in stress and mental health issues that are commonly linked to persistent problems and chronic pain.

While medical services have been largely diverted towards dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it is feared that many who are suffering have been reluctant to seek help because of limited GP services, a lack of availability of physiotherapists or a reluctance to visit hospitals for fear of infection.

PhysioWizard founder Kirsten Lord said this will add to the treatment backlog as full-time services start to resume.

“I founded this company to give people with pain, disability or fear easy access to simple and effective information, so helping people with back and neck pain caused by working from home, and accelerating their recovery, is core to our mission,” Ms Lord said.

“Delivering healthcare using digital tools will help manage the risks associated with community transmission. There is no better time to use technology to care for people than now.”

Based in Edinburgh, PhysioWizard employs 10 people including a team of specialist physiotherapists. The platform is currently being rolled out by a national healthcare provider and two physio provider networks, with two further national networks “close to signing”.

Prior to Covid-19, lower back pain was the biggest cause of ill health in the world, accounting for 12.5% of employee absences and 14% of all GP appointments. The cost of lower back pain to the UK economy has been estimated at £17 billion annually.

Andrew Byers, who joined PhysioWizard as chief executive earlier this year, said the problem will likely get worse as many of the millions who have been sent home to work are doing so in “totally unsuitable” arrangements.

“Finding quiet places to work has seen people using sofas, kitchen tables and edges of beds,” he said. “We’ve seen footage of someone sitting on a toilet seat balancing a laptop on their knee while on a video call because it was the only room free in the house.”

In addition to making the service free to the public, Mr Byers said PhysioWizard has also extended the offer concerned employers who have been in touch with the company.

“Addressing underlying problems will be key in sustaining the current remote work environment and our return to the new normal,” he added.

PhysioWizard is backed by Scottish investment syndicate Archangels and science incubator network BioCity. To date, the company has raised a total of £1.8 million, excluding start-up and grant funding.

Source: The Herald

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