Ophelia partners with MSK provider Vori Health to address chronic pain, opioid use disorder

Ophelia, a provider of opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment, is joining forces with Vori Health, a musculoskeletal (MSK) and orthopedic care provider, to help patients manage pain in an opioid-free way.

Vori will refer patients to Ophelia for OUD treatment, while Ophelia will refer patients to Vori for opioid-free MSK pain management. The partners hope to help each other better understand comorbidities in their patients. 

“While there are population-level estimates, we’re really just beginning to dig into the specifics among our respective populations,” Zack Gray, founder and CEO of Ophelia, told Fierce Healthcare. 

Drug overdose is a leading cause of death in the U.S., and a growing proportion of deaths are attributed to opioids. At the same time, more than half of opioid users report low back pain.

Patients with newly diagnosed MSK pain are prescribed opioids more than 20% of the time—more often than physical therapy, counseling and other non-pharmacologic approaches. The use of opioids over other approaches goes against clinical guidelines for the use of non-opioid pain approaches and non-pharmacologic approaches.

If an Ophelia patient has chronic pain disorder, the provider tries to refer them to a pain management specialist, Gray said. But the vast majority of Ophelia patients don’t have a primary care provider and live in rural areas that are specialist deserts. Many are also on Medicaid and need affordable treatment options. 

“It’s very difficult to find compatible providers to work with our patient population,” Gray said. “But a virtual-first provider like Vori helps us solve that problem.”

Vori, which accepts Medicaid, has an integrated care team of doctors, physical therapists, nutritionists, health coaches, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who create and help guide personalized care plans for patients navigating MSK pain. 

In the traditional healthcare system, there is no integration, Vori executives argue. While a patient presenting with back pain might be prescribed opioids, if they then develop OUD, that pain is not addressed.

“Are you dealing with the abuse and what originally started the narcotic issue?” Ryan Grant, M.D., CEO and founder of Vori, told Fierce Healthcare.

Four in 10 Vori patients suffer from chronic pain. “Those with chronic pain have a very high chance of converting to opioid abuse,” Grant said.

Vori screens patients for OUD or a history of drug abuse. But the number of patients with the condition may actually be higher, Grant noted, as not every patient may feel comfortable disclosing that to a provider. The benefit of having a strategic partner like Ophelia is the option for patients to opt into a private program instead of rehab.

“The problem is simply breaking down barriers for patients to be able to access a medical provider who can treat them legitimately, privately, affordably,” Gray said. 

To date, chronic pain is not something Ophelia formally screened for, since it is not a condition it can treat. Chronic pain was a comorbidity that may have been discovered by a provider during the course of treatment. But once the integration with Vori gets underway, Ophelia providers hope to become better experts in evaluating whether a patient has pain.