Racial and Ethnic Differences in Outcomes of a 12-Week Digital Rehabilitation Program for Musculoskeletal Pain: Prospective Longitudinal Cohort Study

Justin Scheer, Fabíola Costa, Maria Molinos, Anabela Areias, Dora Janela, Robert G. Moulder, Jorge Lains, Virgílio Bento, Vijay Yanamadala, Steven P. Cohen, Fernando Dias Correia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain disproportionately affects people from different ethnic backgrounds through higher burden and less access to care. Digital care programs (DCPs) can improve access and help reduce inequities. However, the outcomes of such programs based on race and ethnicity have yet to be studied. Objective: We aimed to assess the impact of race and ethnicity on engagement and outcomes in a multimodal DCP for MSK pain. Methods: This was an ad hoc analysis of an ongoing decentralized single-arm investigation into engagement and clinical-related outcomes after a multimodal DCP in patients with MSK conditions. Patients were stratified by self-reported racial and ethnic group, and their engagement and outcome changes between baseline and 12 weeks were compared using latent growth curve analysis. Outcomes included program engagement (number of sessions), self-reported pain scores, likelihood of surgery, Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale, Patient Health Questionnaire 9-item, and Work Productivity and Activity Impairment. A minimum clinically important difference (MCID) of 30% was calculated for pain, and multivariable logistic regression was performed to evaluate race as an independent predictor of meeting the MCID. Results: A total of 6949 patients completed the program: 65.5% (4554/6949) of them were non-Hispanic White, 10.8% (749/6949) were Black, 9.7% (673/6949) were Asian, 9.2% (636/6949) were Hispanic, and 4.8% (337/6949) were of other racial or ethnic backgrounds. The population studied was diverse and followed the proportions of the US population. All groups reported high engagement and satisfaction, with Hispanic and Black patients ranking first among satisfaction despite lower engagement. Black patients had a higher likelihood to drop out (odds ratio [OR] 1.19, 95% CI 1.01-1.40, P=.04) than non-Hispanic White patients. Hispanic and Black patients reported the highest level of pain, surgical intent, work productivity, and impairment in activities of daily living at baseline. All race groups showed a significant improvement in all outcomes, with Black and Hispanic patients reporting the greatest improvements in clinical outcomes. Hispanic patients also had the highest response rate for pain (75.8%) and a higher OR of meeting the pain MCID (OR 1.74, 95% CI 1.24-2.45, P=.001), when compared with non-Hispanic White patients, independent of age, BMI, sex, therapy type, education level, and employment status. No differences in mental health outcomes were found between race and ethnic groups. Conclusions: This study advocates for the utility of a DCP in improving access to MSK care and promoting health equity. Engagement and satisfaction rates were high in all the groups. Black and Hispanic patients had higher MSK burden at baseline and lower engagement but also reported higher improvements, with Hispanic patients presenting a higher likelihood of pain improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere41306
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • digital therapy
  • diversity
  • eHealth
  • equity
  • ethnicity
  • mobile phone
  • musculoskeletal conditions
  • pain
  • physical therapy
  • race
  • telehealth
  • telerehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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