Dear Benefit leader,

You already know that in this COVID-19 era, your people are hunching over their laptops in repurposed kitchens & bedrooms. This mass shift to working from home is causing a lot of people experience lower back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and wrist pain. You can see it from the claims that most of them are skipping routine medical care for pain management, due to the fear of catching the virus. You may also know that without proactive management, these acute musculoskeletal problems will turn into chronic pain.

In a previous post, we covered the magnitude of chronic pain epidemic – that it affects 116 million adults in the United States. Did you know that chronic pain requires 50% more time away from work than other issues? That’s because people living with chronic pain have a higher risk of stress, anxiety and depression.

Research suggests that 30 to 50% of people with chronic pain in the workplace also struggle with depression or anxiety. These two conditions often feed on each other – which often leads to loss of days at work.

As you know, the majority of chronic pain in the workplace experienced by adults is musculoskeletal in origin. Musculoskeletal conditions cost about 15-20% of medical spend. They affect nearly every segment of your company’s healthcare expenditures. The expenses sail into your medical plan, worker’s compensation, into emergency room utilization, into pharmaceuticals, into imaging, into surgeries.

Some of your peers have started to put together these pieces of the puzzle to realize how expensive this expense is. In the 2020 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design survey, 44 percent of employers ranked musculoskeletal issues—such as knee, hip and back pain severe enough to warrant surgery—as the top condition impacting their costs while 85 percent ranked it among the top three conditions.

However, when you look beyond just the costs, you’d find that chronic musculoskeletal pain in the workplace slows your people down and prevents them from being as efficient as they otherwise would be. 4 in 10 Americans suffering from chronic pain say pain interferes with their mood, activities, sleep, ability to do work. Absenteeism is a common side effect of chronic pain. Employees also suffer through presenteeism – being physically present at work but unable to perform at full capacity.

Due to complex needs, high demands and multiple comorbidities, musculoskeletal care in United Stated has traditionally been uncoordinated and inefficient. Patients often require multiple pathways such as pain, physical therapy, rehabilitation, pain medication and this has made it difficult for our traditional specialist-centric system to cope. That means that your people often receive fragmented care and poor experience. They receive surgical interventions where conservative measures have been far more appropriate. This also means that you, the sponsor of health benefits for your people have been spending far more on this than needed and receiving poor value for money, with high levels of waste in the system.

Now some positive news!

Several leading-edge employers, in an effort to mitigate the impact of back and joint pain and its related syndromes, have begun to engage more directly with employees to ensure that they understand chronic pain, its causes, and how to manage it appropriately. They now understand that the management of chronic pain requires a broad whole person treatment approach which addresses the multiple aspects of pain and lifestyle.

A number of them have started to use digital health solutions for chronic pain management that use a multimodal approach combining physical and psychological therapies and is the most effective way to improve function and mood, and reduce disability for your people suffering from chronic joint and back pain. In addition, it improves mental health, and avoids costly surgeries and dangerous drugs.

As a champion of your people’s health and safety, you play a crucial role in helping to manage the musculoskeletal pain epidemic in your workforce. Let us know how we can help.

Sprite Health’s digital musculoskeletal pain platform provides a single point of access for all MSK conditions, across the entire MSK continuum. Our virtual physical therapy services provide a more affordable and convenient way to prevent and treat pain. Chronic pain management provides an evidence-based, PT-led digital program for chronic joint and back pain that includes personalized exercise therapy, behavioral health support, education & guidance. Bundled surgery provides access to high-quality musculoskeletal surgical care at a pre-negotiated bundled rate. MSK financial management leverages predictive analytics, clinical expertise and plan administration capabilities to eliminate waste – resulting in over 30% net savings in your MSK spend.

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