Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as back, shoulder, neck, hip or knee pain affect 1 in 2 employees every year. The cost to treat MSK conditions is greater than treatment of many other chronic health conditions.combined and makes up about 15-20% of spend for most health plans. In 2016, Americans spent an estimated $380 billion on MSK conditions. That’s far more than diabetes ($111.2 billion) and ischemic heart disease ($89.3 billion). Besides the huge cost impact, MSK conditions are also the leading cause of disability and absenteeism. Back and neck pain alone impacts 1 in 3 employees, and leads to the loss of 12 working days per year.

Despite the high prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions, most employees don’t know the right place or pathway to start when they experience muscular pain or injury. A number of the visits are made to suboptimal settings that either delay the treatment or add unnecessary cost to treatment. For example, people presenting to ER with minor musculoskeletal conditions such as tendinopathy, back pain or sprains etc. represent more than 35% of all ER visits. Our fragmented musculoskeletal system of care is getting bigger every year with no change in quality or outcomes.

More than 80% of MSK spend is attributed to surgeries, related imaging and drugs. Employers and health plans can avoid these costly surgeries by offering conservative care options like physical therapy to address back and joint pain. Unfortunately going to physical therapy twice a week in-person is not realistic and now with COVID-19, it is not even an option.

Permanent shift in working

Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain is most often caused by an injury to the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves. However, for most employees working in service industry, MSK pain is caused by overuse, poor posture or prolonged immobilization.

The duration of the pandemic has already exceeded the early predictions of many analysts; now eight months into COVID-19 and with rising cases (again) around the world, it appears that telecommuting trend will continue for the remainder of the year and well into 2021. While this is somewhat of a good news for employees from work flexibility standpoint, unfortunately the change in our working environment is resulting in exacerbation of all three risk factors that lead to MSK pain. Additional factors such as lack of sleep and increased stress due to the pandemic are also contributing to work-from-home injuries.

What does it mean for employers who want to assist employees with physical pain? A number of them had already made huge investments in making workplace safer for employees, with optimal comfort and ergonomics. With so many people working from home hunching over their laptops in repurposed kitchens & bedrooms, the remote work environment requires that the health benefits must evolve to supporting employees’ physical and mental health needs at home.

Making help available

In this period of extreme uncertainty, organizations can support their people and foster a physically safe environment at home with a digital musculoskeletal (MSK) platform.

The digital therapy platform for MSK conditions provides employees a single point of access for virtual musculoskeletal care, from the safety of their home. Whether it is acute or chronic MSK pain, the platform makes it easy to access help, ensuring that everything from self-help tools to high-quality providers are visible, affordable, and available virtually as well as in person. In addition, the digital MSK platform provides tools and resources that helps employees choose the right treatment options and care settings for their situation and condition.

The investment in the right digital musculoskeletal solution can reduce your health spend significantly and provides your people an elevated, integrated experience with a single point of access for MSK conditions across the continuum – from preventive to postoperative rehabilitation. One place to go, one app for all musculoskeletal care, from the safety of their home.

Like any other condition, MSK conditions are not monolithic. People with musculoskeletal pain have varied needs, which can’t be addressed with a one-size-fit-all point application. An effective digital care solution for employees with musculoskeletal pain provides multiple pathways, each designed to support the specific needs of employees for their unique situation and stage of their journey. These pathways range from preventive care (a good option for healthy people who want to prevent MSK pain or injury), to acute, chronic as well as pre-surgery, surgery and post-surgery rehabilitation.

MSK Preventive care pathway

MSK preventive care pathway proactively identifies ergonomic, behavioral and bio-mechanical risks for potential pain or injury and translates them into effective corrective actions through job role specific, ergonomic and mobility education.

MSK Acute care pathway

Acute care pathway is triggered when you experience minor injury, aches and pain. Digital MSK platform provides quick access to diagnosis and early management advice from MSK specialists using a phone or a video call; get a tailored plan specifically designed for you that includes at-home exercises, education, advice, and direction towards self management.

MSK Chronic pain management pathway

Acute pain, if not properly addressed, can progress to chronic pain if not addressed correctly. Employees living with chronic pain have a higher risk of developing depression. The digital care pathway for employees with chronic musculoskeletal pain provides a multimodal personalized approach that combines the right interventions (physical, psychological, and educational) for maximum impact.

MSK Pre/Post Surgical Rehab Pathway

Most important component of successful surgical outcome is what a member does when they are not in the surgery. The digital MSK platform optimizes the musculoskeletal surgical pathway, by integrating prehab and rehab into the surgery support process. Prehab provides members with the right physical and psychological conditioning to best prepare them for successful surgical outcomes and faster recovery time. The postoperative rehab gets members back on their feet, so they can continue living a healthy and productive life.

Summary

Instead of instilling the artificial belief that life will get back to the way it was, progressive benefit leaders are confronting the reality that working may never be ‘normal’ again. They are focusing on developing individual, team, and organizational resilience, and are continuously sensing, learning and exploring new solutions for their people. The digital musculoskeletal (MSK) platform is one of these solutions that can provide the employees an affordable, safe and more convenient way to prevent and treat pain.

Sprite Health’s digital program for musculoskeletal pain 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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