Musculoskeletal problems are perhaps the single biggest cause for construction employees to take sick days off work. Now, PhysioWizard provides a certified and thorough self assessment tool that guides you through the process and tells you what to do next

The current emphasis on maintaining or improving the wellbeing of your workforce is, perhaps, one of the only positives to come out of COVID-19 for. Despite an increasing reliance on modern construction and manufacturing technology, it is evident that it's the human factor that governs the success or failure of a project. A disorganised, dissatisfied and unhealthy workforce can play havoc with schedules, the quality of work, an increase in accidents and days off work.

The construction industry is a case in point, and has a bad reputation for the number of injuries sustained on construction sites. Whilst a large number of these may be caused by mishaps, accidents and falls, which can be minimised or mitigated by some of the current health and safety applications available in the industry, there are probably many more which are caused by the stresses and strains of an occupation which relies on plenty of heavy lifting and strenuous manual labour. These may not manifest themselves until the end of a shift, or when an employee returns home, but may be serious enough to lay an employee off for a couple of days.

This costs the contractor time and money and may result in having to find a temporary replacement to keep a project on track. The sooner a problem is assessed and a course of treatment prescribed, the better for the patient and the company, and this applies equally to industries which involve a degree of physical activity as well as office-based workers.

Unfortunately, the first port of call in today's digitally focused environment is usually 'Dr. Google', which will bring up more information than one could possibly handle - at least 100 different causes of a simple nosebleed, for example. Half an hour spent Googling aches and pains will leave anybody convinced they have a serious physical ailment, if they aren't totally overwhelmed by the contradictory information available.

And, more to the point, downloading and printing out unofficial advice will cut no ice with a line manager, who will instead merely mark an employee absent. The only alternative, up to now, is to book an appointment with a GP - a difficult and arduous prospect in the current lockdown.

There is an alternative, though. Construction workers can log on to the PhysioWizard platform either on site or at home, and respond to a comprehensive questionnaire which asks a series of simple questions about the physical problem which is causing them distress - in fact, every question that you would hope a doctor, clinician or physiotherapist would ask is covered.

As its name suggests, PhysioWizard is directed solely towards the physical aspects of a person's health and wellbeing - muscular aches and pains, strains, backaches, and any condition that is other than a medical, aural or visual problem. The investigation starts by presenting images on screen which are used to highlight the areas where physical discomfort is being felt, and then narrows the assessment down further, asking questions about how it feels, it's occurrence, duration and how long it has persisted. Questions are asked about previous medical histories too, and anything that might be associated with the current problem.

The questionnaire also extends its enquiries to the mental aspects of the condition, or anything else that might have contributed to it, probing the wellness of a patient by asking how the problem makes them feel, how it affects their work and what things they are unable to do because of it.

Upon completion of the questionnaire a report is generated which summarises the assessment and suggests what should be done next, either to book an appointment with a physiotherapist, doctor, or other specialist, call 111, or to undertake a series of specifically calculated exercises designed to alleviate musculoskeletal (MSK)problems, which are demonstrated with onscreen videos. An analysis of the results from the past ten years shows that around 50% of the reports produced suggest further treatment at the hands of a physiotherapist. The employee can also forward the report to whoever handles health and safety in larger companies, or give them a summary. PhysioWizard is fully compliant with all GDPR requirements and safeguards employee confidentiality.

PhysioWizard in action
PhysioWizard is more accurately described as a Musculoskeletal Muscle and Joint Digital Triage platform, and has been developed and tested over the past ten years by clinicians as an alternative to GP or physio assessment. In a clinical safety trial, PhysioWizard provided the same triage pathway as a chartered physiotherapist in 93% of cases and the remaining 7% were referred to higher levels of care, making the app an extremely safe alternative to face-to-face clinical assessment. MSK problems account for 30% of almost 300 million GP consultations a year, and 1 in 8 employees have to stay off work sometime during the year with MSK issues. By empowering the patient to self-assess quickly it saves the time and effort involved in booking and getting to see a doctor, enables treatment or alleviation to begin at the earliest opportunity and speeds up a patient's return to work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on even these stark statistics. GP appointments are more difficult to arrange, hospitals are rightly focusing on COVID-19 patients, and diagnostic facilities such as scanners are allocated elsewhere. Self assessment is not only a timely resource in difficult times, but is likely to increase in the future, alongside the growing use by GPs of online and telephone consultations.

PhysioWizard was founded by Kirsten Lord, who is the Chief Clinical Officer for the company and has been a chartered physiotherapist for the last 29 years. The CEO is Andrew Byers, assisted by former Bupa Chief Information Office Garry Fingland as Chairman. I spoke to Paul Arnold, the company's Business development Director, as well as Kirsten Lord, who outlined the application.

The software was CE marked and registered with MHRA in 2015, and is part of the NHS Digital Framework, due to be integrated with GP software once it has gone through witness testing and evaluation. It also complies with Cyber Essentials and GDPR, the latter to ensure user's complete security with regard to the sharing of their medical records as part of the self assessment.

Handling the Data
Although PhysioWizard is available to everybody, it can become a vital tool on a busy construction site, running on the mobile reporting tools and devices currently being used by construction personnel as part of their job. Access to the app can be provided as and when needed, with non-invasive results recorded on a dashboard that monitors the general health of the company's personnel, providing a summary of results that show the range of health issues or outcomes that are occurring on site.

PhysioWizard is already being used by public and private healthcare providers, HR departments and occupational health companies, but the company is continuing to innovate and develop. Planned enhancements include the tracking of treatments following self assessment, the internationalisation of standards, and integration with EWB, GP and other health assessment triage solutions. There are also plans to integrate chatbots, whiplash pathways and reporting, and machine learning, with the aim of fine-tuning analytics and diagnoses.

The future is here then, hastened by the obligations and constraints of COVID-19. You can also try out the software yourself for free, by trying the Lite version of the app at the following link: