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Addressing Musculoskeletal Health to Combat Rising Costs

August 11, 2021 / Employee Wellbeing Best Practices

Written By: Jordan Dunne

Most adults have experienced back pain at some point in their lives. Even a minor back injury like a pulled muscle can make getting out of bed an excruciating task. When you consider the impact these common and seemingly minor aches have on daily living, it’s easy to understand why long-term joint and muscle pain are major concerns for the modern workforce.

Among all of the physical and mental health concerns workers are facing today, musculoskeletal (MSK) issues —particularly low back pain—are the leading cause of disability globally and the most common reason employees miss work. Characterized by pain or injury to muscles, tendons, or ligaments due to overexertion, repetitive motions, or prolonged static posture, MSK issues affect employees across all industries. These do not include injuries resulting from accidental falls.

Musculoskeletal Health Risks Aren’t Limited to Physical Laborers

From physical laborers to desk workers, all employees are at risk of developing chronic MSK-related back pain that could result in absenteeism, lost productivity, expensive medical claims, and worker replacement. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.7 billion people—roughly 4 in 10—suffer from MSK issues worldwide, with low back pain being the leading cause of disability in 160 countries. Back pain alone contributes to more than 264 million missed days of work annually.

All this is costing employers – big time. Our always-on approach to work coupled with sedentary workday routines has contributed to the rising cost of MSK care, which has almost doubled in the U.S. from $10 billion in 2010 to $20 billion in 2020. In 2018, MSK issues accounted for 30% of worker’s compensation costs. Now, with more employees working from home or engaging in a hybrid work model without a proper ergonomic workstation, it’s reasonable to expect the prevalence of MSK conditions to continue to climb. In fact, a 2020 survey indicated that 2 in 5 employees developed new or worsened musculoskeletal issues after they started working from home during the pandemic.

The question many employers are struggling to answer today is:

How do we mitigate the direct and indirect costs associated with MSK issues for our onsite, hybrid, and remote teams?

Improve Musculoskeletal Health With Digital Therapeutics

Digital therapeutics programs can result in direct medical cost savings, prevention of future MSK-related costs, increased productivity, decreased disability claims, and more—especially when paired with a comprehensive wellbeing platform. Personalized and affordable, digital therapeutics solutions like our partners Kaia Health and Hinge Health take the stress off the healthcare system by empowering employees to self-manage their chronic pain.

In fact, health outcomes associated with Kaia Health’s digital therapeutics program can be seen in as little as six weeks, with preliminary data showing a 47% decrease in pain and a 30% improvement in physical and mental wellbeing. A recent case study found that Kaia Health customers experienced 22% in net cost savings in 2019, representing a 1.6:1 return on investment in the first year of deployment. Kaia Health customers see an ROI of 3-3.4 based on the measurement of user pain reductions correlated with cost savings.

As the industry leader in engagement rates, Virgin Pulse has a higher rate of unique active Kaia Health users through the company’s VP+ partner solution bundle than Kaia’s overall rates across its book of business, according to Kaia Health data from June 2021.

Recently, the Validation Institute validated Hinge Health’s multi-year medical claim savings outcomes. Hinge Health is the only digital MSK solution to be validated for savings by the Validation Institute, an objective third-party verifier of vendor performance claims to provide transparency to healthcare buyers. The solution delivers a 2.26x return on investment (ROI), reducing medical claims spend by $2,244 per participant on average and decreasing the number of participants requiring invasive treatments for MSK conditions by 68.7%.

Address Musculoskeletal Health to Drive Down Care Costs

Healthcare costs are rising—and not simply due to MSK disorders. Many of the costliest health conditions afflicting the workforce are, however, preventable. Integrated, comprehensive health and wellbeing efforts can reverse key risk factors such as poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, tobacco and substance use, and high stress.

Virgin Pulse is the industry’s only true Homebase for Health®, bringing all your health and wellbeing solutions, analytics, and benefits navigation together through one easy-to-access digital tool. Integrated partner solutions address more than 20 key health, wellbeing, and benefits categories. Digital therapeutics such as VP Transform and various partner offerings address your biggest claims cost drivers. Finally, expert health coaches and concierge guides offer a personal touch to help your members address their top health goals and risk factors.

Our wellbeing experts can help you build a flexible solution to best fit the ever-changing needs of your diverse workforce and drive measurable health and cost-savings outcomes. Book a meeting today.

About The Author

Jordan Dunne is a copywriter and editor on the marketing team at Virgin Pulse, focusing on social strategy and health and wellbeing content. Outside of work, you can find her at the gym, hosting trivia, taking photos of food, or snuggling up on the couch with her dogs.

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