The lockdown impact on the musculoskeletal health of your employees

The coronavirus pandemic has affected our lives in so many ways. For most employees this lockdown has been a time of inactivity, insomnia, back pain and alcohol consumption. Poor sleep and increased fatigue, long and irregular hours has led to a significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints. People are hunching over their laptops in repurposed bedrooms, this mass shift to working from home is causing a lot of people experience neck, shoulder or back pain.

Employers recognize their role in the wellbeing of their staff, even when working from home. Here are a number of steps they can take to improve employee wellbeing.

Provide guidance

Employers can provide guidance to the employees to help them set up their home ‘office’ in a safe and ergonomic way and that employees are mobile and take exercise.

Support for online workouts

Current choices of online workouts have never been this diverse, motivational and quite often free. However not all videos are created equal. Some are purely videos to watch and follow, others are apps that provide more interaction and features. A playlist of these videos can be created and shared with employees.

Telehealth support

There are clearly employees who continue to need orthopedic care during this pandemic and it is important that they are provided the right physical and emotional support at this painful, difficult time. Such employees can be provided telehealth based physical therapy and mental health support when possible.

We know that the ramp up back to “normal” will be slow, gradual, and deliberate and we are committed to continue to care for our clients and members while focusing on the safety of our staff. 

Improving employee engagement in MSK benefits

Passive cost-savings measures have run their course. Limiting networks, inexplanable exclusions and higher deductibles are not effective in reducing costs or improving outcomes on a sustainable basis.

In contrast, active engagement of employees through smart strategy and technology can help generate the improved outcomes and cost savings opportunities that self-funded employers are seeking.

Employee engagement can be improved by starting early and consistency delivering timely, relevant, and personalized communication. This requires a systematic approach of orchestrating touchpoints — a touchpoint being any interaction between the employee and her health plan. The key is coordinating and integrating the touchpoints so that they seamlessly meld together.

Here is a list of 5 touch points longitudinally mapped throughout the employee healthcare journey, that can be leveraged to influence a positive action and changing behavior.

Touchpoint 1: Open Enrollment

Reaching out to members during open enrollment is a great way to start the communication. Your MSK solution provider should be able to offer a concierge service that can promote utilization of high-quality services and providers. Several employers are now offering incentives such as subsidized deductibles or cash bonus for using high-quality care. The concierge should be prepared to explain these incentives along with multiple MSK care options and answer specific questions for each employee.

Letting employees know that they can get rapid access to diagnosis and early management advice from MSK specialists using a phone or a video call can boost early engagement and sign-ups into these programs.

Touchpoint 2: Post-Enrollment

Post enrollment (after the member has signed up) is an opportunity to determine satisfaction and understanding of the plan collateral, design and customer service for future improvements.

Several employers provide an incentive to employees for completing assessments. Your MSK solution provider should be able to use that data to segment the population by needs and then determine the appropriate schedule for follow-up interactions with the members. During this interaction, the provider should be ready to track responses that require timely follow up for members needing additional assistance.

Use the right timing to reach members for preventive MSK care.  Calls scheduled on the employee’s birthday can be very effective.

Touchpoint 3: Eligibility and Prior Authorization

Ask your MSK solution provider to have a system that can leverage data from eligibility, benefits inquiry or prior authorization transactions. For example, if an eligibility request comes from an orthopedic surgeon, the system should be able to connect the past claims, diagnoses to this request and predict what services an employee is likely to consider in near future. This knowledge can be used to push information directly to employees’ smartphones and tablets about conservative treatment options (such physical therapy, chiropractic care, or a cortisone injection) or about this provider’s cost and quality. These types of timely interactions can promote informed conversations with their doctor at the time of service.

Touchpoint 4: ER Visits

ER is expensive. A number of back or neck pain related visits to ER are unnecessary or avoidable, and majority of such visits are taken by a small percentage of members. Your MSK solution provider should identify such members and help them locate providers that can provide the care they seek in a timely manner. This touch point should also be used to educate members on telehealth triage service, digital MSK programs, etc.

Touchpoint 5: Care Transition

Your MSK solution provider should work alongside acute and post-acute staff to ensure the members receive the optimal post-acute care, get discharged to the most appropriate setting, resulting in lower costs and higher quality outcomes. Providing a concierge-like experience to guide members through post-acute care increases member engagement.

Most third party plan administrators are not wired to engage consistently with members throughout their health journey. For employers who are ready to invest in the alternative – the reward is cost reduction, better outcomes, and higher employee satisfaction. It is well worth it.

Sprite Health is focused on transforming musculoskeletal care by identifying employees with MSK issues, guiding them to the highest quality care and engaging them throughout the care journey. Our turnkey solution (built on AI driven technology, a high-touch concierge service and a curated MSK network) delivers better health outcomes while significantly lowering costs for employers and employees.

Partnering with employees to save healthcare costs

There’s an enormous amount of waste & inefficiency in musculoskeletal benefits. The primitive benefit designs prevalent in most companies keep employees away from discovering the actual cost of care. The existing system is constantly shifting costs to employees, often without informing people of those costs in advance. This creates no incentive whatsoever for employees to explore conservative treatment options or shop for higher quality care. Until people are able to connect the cost of care to their out-of-pocket spend, they should not be expected to change.

Steering employees away from overpriced healthcare providers through benefit design incentives and helping them make better care decisions can drive down costs for everyone. However, doing so requires disciplined execution of efforts that obtain employee buy-in and commitment to necessary decisions and behavior changes.

Positive messaging

Communication of any cost-cutting initiative needs to be handled carefully. Start by helping employees understand why savings matter in the first place. Share with them the effect of making better decisions to their financial well-being and enrichment of their benefits.

Make it simple

Employees should be empowered with the right tools and support that helps them make better decisions. Create an easy shopping experience that provides clarity on best treatment solutions for their current needs and suggests high-quality, low-cost providers. Remove barriers such as ‘deductibles’ that cloud people’s judgement in making a better decision.

Timely Education

Including cost-saving suggestions during open enrollment is not enough. It won’t sink in the first time. Repetition is essential. The cost-saving targeted messages should be delivered at health fairs and when people are looking for care, via multiple channels.

Share the savings

Allowing employees to personally share in the savings they generate can go a long way. Tying incentives directly to cost-sensitive behavior encourages people to seek out ways to save.

Measure the ROI

Evaluate your investments against overall cost savings, tweak it regularly to gain the maximum impact.

At Sprite Health, we work hard every day to help self-funded employers design simpler, lower-cost, higher-value musculoskeletal benefits. Sprite empowers your people with simple, transparent, upfront pricing for services and treatments that address their specific needs. With hands-on support by our concierge, your people get a seamless, personalized experience that makes accessing, understanding, navigating and paying for care effortless.