4 tips to get employees’ attention to digital musculoskeletal program

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in multiple ways — from constant fears about health and finances to most employees still working from home. The lines between work and life are blurred. Work from home trend is likely to continue in the future. A recent report from CISCO suggests that more than 75% of large organizations (typically self-funded) will increase flexibility to work from home. 

Benefit leaders know that health of their people is the first priority. If employees are in pain or are sick, they are not productive. To perform well during this pandemic, employees need to know they can get quality care from their safety of their home, when they and their family members need it.

By offering digital health, benefit leaders are helping their team members get access to primary and urgent care via phone, message or a video call. This keeps them away from high-risk health clinics and hospitals. While telehealth for primary care can address minor urgent care issues such as cold and flu, allergies, sore throat, UTIs etc., the transactional model of telehealth is not effective for chronic condition management and musculoskeletal care.

People with chronic conditions such as chronic back and joint pain often require multiple visits with their providers and need close monitoring on a regular basis. They also need an ability to have asynchronous model of communication with their provider between visits. Understanding this need, progressive benefit departments are taking the next step and offering digital therapeutics for conditions such as digital care for people with musculoskeletal pain. Some companies have committed to providing such programs at low or no cost to their people. Such a move will be a significant factor in maintaining a culture in which team members feel supported and safe.

Having digital health in your benefits portfolio is not enough. It is also equally important that people know about it when they need it. Scheduling health fairs, in-person meetings, and accessing cafeterias or break rooms to promote health benefits programs is no longer realistic. In this new ‘reality’ benefit leaders will no longer be able to rely on place or time based (for example during open enrollment only) approaches to get employees’ attention to their benefits. It is no surprise that during this open enrollment benefit leaders are feeling more pressurized to provide strong  communication, education and support of the health benefit programs, while relying on new forms of communication. 

Here are  5 tips to up your game to find new, engaging options that work in an at-home, virtual environment.

Create personalized, targeted communication

With employee stuck at home, most of them are experiencing information overload and spending on average over 50 -60 hours per week consuming social media content.  The way your people are consuming information has changed. They are now expecting the information they are interested in to find them rather than having to look for it.

Most traditional benefit communication followed the broadcasting model: One-size-fit-all and send the same content to everyone. Gone are the days of sending a boring and generic ten-page email. With people distracted at home, it is more important than ever to make benefit communication employee-centric and tailored to meet their individual needs. Benefit leaders should expect that at this time, anything which is irrelevant to recipients will be ignored.

We can’t ignore the differences in impact that Covid-19 has had along the lines of basic variables between employees – e.g., essential vs non-essential, remote vs. non-remote workers, the presence of dependents at home, gender, socioeconomic level, and ethnicity. Even with widespread popularity of digital health in a short period of time, the access remains very uneven, in terms of addressing all populations.

The new of the hour is to tailor communication to smaller, more selective audiences (even individuals). Seek opportunities to segment messages, even to significant groups.

Make it relevant, simple, straightforward, and interesting.

Round the year messaging

It is also important to continue benefits communications beyond the annual open enrollment period. The importance of employee engagement round the year cannot be understated, amidst a shift to virtual and remote work, which will continue to be more commonly practiced. The needs of employees change throughout the year. The communications strategy should accommodate all life changes and allow employees to make benefits changes as needed during the year.

When you’re looking into how to engage remote employees and keeping remote employees engaged, remember that it’s a constant task to nurture and develop. Engagement is never a one size fits all approach or something you do once in a blue moon. Keeping remote employees engaged turns them into your best and biggest asset. 

Use the right tools, first and foremost

If your team isn’t using the right tools to communicate and collaborate effectively then you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. The market has a ton of chat and collaboration tools to choose from so managing a robust, productive remote team is a much easier task to take on. 

If your workplace is not digital yet (your Intranet is outdated, you’re still sending out standardized email newsletters to your entire workforce, or you don’t use any employee communications app that allows your employees to personalize their newsfeed), you’re going to have a tough time engaging with your remote employees. You need to build a robust internal communications strategy that helps you connect and engage with the remote workforce. Put differently, you need to shift your internals communications toward a digital communications ecosystem.

Also video is preferred over text. Much of our language is nonverbal. When managers are forced to limit the nonverbal cues available to their direct reports, they increase the chance for miscommunication, defensiveness, and conflict. Managers need to communicate with their teams in multiple ways and through multiple mediums to keep expectations clear, to reinforce priorities, and to help understand and address barriers to maximizing their team’s work while they are away from the office.

Whether it’s through their phones, a news feed similar to their social feeds, or a content booster they can use to suggest and share content, you’ll need to find the right channels to communicate with them.

Make sure employees feel heard and valued.

However, in most organizations, top-down communication translates into standardized and noisy communication. Most experts agree that top-down communication alone is not the best approach to drive engagement in the workplace

Frequent group updates and anonymous feedback surveys can also help a remote workforce feel included and give them the opportunity to voice their needs without the added concern of reaching out at an inopportune moment.

Create an effective communication strategy so you can reach every employee. For example: 

  • Hold weekly formal “check-ins” 
  • Establish performance goals for the month, quarter, and year
  • Set clear expectations and requirements for tasks
  • Channels should be created for each situation such as one-to-one chats, team meetings, video calls, or open forums for sharing of feedback and ideas
  • Encourage two-way communication – get feedback on projects, marketing strategy, customer satisfaction, and more.

Your employees deserve to feel appreciated – even from a distance. Since you’re not in the office with them each day to extend a quick thank-you or take them out to lunch for their work anniversary, you should find small ways to celebrate your employees as often as possible. 

Sprite Health’s digital musculoskeletal program 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.

How to promote digital MSK programs during the pandemic?

Six months into pandemic, it doesn’t look like remote working and zoom meetings are going away anytime soon.

This also means that for many of us will continue to hunch over laptops on beds and subject our arms to ill-placed keyboards. The result: months of poor posture is leading to back pain, neck pain and headaches for over 40% of employees working from home.

If your employees are already feeling the physical strain, left untreated they may be on the road to a potentially debilitating musculoskeletal injury, such as a bad back, sore neck and shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome.

Benefit leaders know that employees can’t be productive when they’re in pain. They are realizing that their employees need more support in managing their physical pain at home. Digital musculoskeletal program provides a convenient, safe and low-cost option to address joint and back pain.

Despite the demonstrated value of such solutions, it remains unclear how to promote them to the workforce. None of us have been through a pandemic before and the pandemic has thrown every one of the in-office physical types of engagement opportunities out the window. Benefit leaders have to ensure that all the key points and messages of a digital musculoskeletal program are communicated clearly and timely to members to drive them to action in a mostly at-home, virtual environment.

WHICH CAMP THEY FALL INTO?

When it comes to communication, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t cut it anymore.

For corporate musculoskeletal programs, it makes sense to start the communication plan by segmenting employee audiences and creating employee personas. This can also be done based on different stages of their MSK journey, such as preventive, acute, chronic, pre-surgical, surgery and post-surgery rehab..

Additionally functions, job roles, as well as the impact of the pandemic should be considered in segmentation. For example, there is increasing evidence that some racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. During this time, it is crucial that communications are conscientious and address such inequalities with sensitivity.

MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE

The intranet is often the last place people will go to find anything related to joints and back pain. To maximize the impact of messaging, it is important to communicate with employees on their channel (mobile, web, email, mailer) of preference. The content should be designed to be responsive on different form-factors to ensure that it is seen. What works on a mailer does not work on a mobile device.

If you are taking assistance in marketing from the digital MSK solution provider, make sure the provider has the tools to design and deliver digital campaigns on multiple channels. Such tools must also measure the impact of such campaigns, with an ability to retarget employees who have expressed interest in specific topics.

COMMUNICATE OFTEN

The communication plan should be designed for early and frequent updates. Majority of employers have scheduled open enrollments in the next couple of months. Unfortunately, their messaging about benefits is going to compete with the 24-hour news cycle and elections coverage.

Given the uncertainty in most businesses, work schedules may be difficult to predict very far in advance. That’s why it may help to allot some time during regular staff/department meetings to communicate updates and ensure all employees are on the same page.

While automated marketing is incredibly cost-effective for frequent communication. It’s essential, however, to avoid being seen as spammy or impersonal at this time. Every email blast, social media post and messaging should be customized and contextualized.

BIDIRECTIONAL COMMUNICATION

One positive outcome of the pandemic has been the widespread availability of bi-directional channels (such as slack) in the workplace for communication. This type of feedback mechanism where employees can express themselves or ask questions is crucial for success for the adoption of the digital musculoskeletal program.

If you have seen success with some communication channels and tools during the pandemic, the same can be continued with necessary adjustments to communicate the MSK program’s value proposition. However, benefit leaders should expect exaggerated responses due to ongoing anxiety and be prepared to respond quickly when questions arise.

A DEDICATED PLACE

Even though Telemedicine usage has skyrocketed during the pandemic, specialized services such as virtual physical therapy, virtual post-surgery rehab and digital therapeutics for chronic pain are new types of benefits for many employees.

Having a dedicated place for the digital musculoskeletal program is very helpful for employees. This page can have information about what’s included as well as support line for any questions.

The program vendor should be providing the necessary support in program enrollment, and resolve any technical issues. If possible, this dedicated page can answer questions about the member coverage and cost-sharing (co-pays, limits etc.) for different services.

The dedicated page should have a section for frequently asked questions (FAQs), to provide quick answers to common questions.

VIRTUAL SESSIONS AND FAIRS

Vendor organized virtual sessions can be very useful to communicate the value of the musculoskeletal program. These sessions can be offered on demand and typically made available outside of a 9-to-5 schedule. If the digital MSK program is offered to spouses and partners, employees should be encouraged to bring them along, to the sessions. Many employees are now much more comfortable with virtual sessions, understanding muting etiquette. They should be encouraged to use cameras for better interaction. To make these sessions interesting, include multiple people (including benefits team and broker), video testimonials and interactive surveys. Each session should end with links to downloadable content, a link to the page for enrollment as well as recording of the session.

In addition, benefit leaders can explore modern virtual benefit fairs platforms that allow for separate vendor breakout sessions for employees to learn more-detailed questions.

Sprite Health corporate musculoskeletal program provides a single point of access for all musculoskeletal conditions, from prevention to postoperative rehab – all in one app. For more information on tools and techniques to promote digital MSK programs to your workforce, please call us at 1-855-234-1849 or write us at hi@spritehealth.com

How Maria tamed her chronic back pain?

“I couldn’t get up for 10 minutes,” Maria remembers. She was at the end of her 12-hour shift. May be muscle sprain, she first thought. Just 4 days later, this sprain had turned into debilitating back pain.

Maria is a nurse working in a pediatric intensive care unit. It is true that nurses do some serious heavy lifting, literally in the hospital setting, where they must deal with intense mental and physical demands over grueling 12-hour shifts. Back pain is a common occurrence, over 50% of nurses report chronic back pain. Not many people know that nurses are three times more likely to suffer a back pain than a construction worker, truck driver or a manual laborer. 

Diagnosed with degenerative disc, Maria began regular physical therapy treatments that allowed her to function for some time, though she remained in constant discomfort. Unlike her own intensive schedule, her therapist’s clinic hours were 9 am to 5 pm and it was really cumbersome for her to take out two hours during workday. Also, she had not yet met her deductible and was paying for care all by herself. Eventually, she stopped going to the physical therapist.

This was the first time Maria had experienced any back pain in her life. Little did she know that she would be plagued with back pain for the next three years.

“Driving in a car became very painful, I wasn’t sleeping very well at night, and trying to get any work done was really difficult. I was in so much pain and my painkillers just weren’t strong enough. I got very depressed, helpless and hopeless,”, Maria recalled tearfully.

Unlike acute pain, where the predominant emotion is anxiety, for people with chronic pain, it is depression. Chronic pain not only causes loss of function, it also cause a loss of oneself. Pain medicine and opioids don’t take away the pain. They just mitigate it, with a number of side effects and problems. Some people choose to go through increasingly invasive procedures to control pain, such as steroid injections. Some others resort to surgery, such as spinal decompression or disc replacement for intractable back pain. Unfortunately these invasive procedures and surgeries are unnecessary and inappropriate in most cases and don’t fix the problem. Over 50% of patients are back in the system within 12 months of treatment.

Maria did not want to go down the surgical path and she started researching about other non-invasive options, and came to know about multidisciplinary pain clinic. There were only two in her town, the nearest was about 25 miles from her home. She did her math and quickly realized that she could not afford an expensive multidisciplinary pain clinic coupled with taking 4 to 6 weeks out of their life and family.

Maria is not alone. According to CDC, 50 million Americans – just over 20 percent of the adult population – have chronic pain. About 20 million of them have “high-impact chronic pain” — pain severe enough that it frequently limits life or work activities. Most of them do not have access to high-quality multidisciplinary pain options, nor do they have enormous funds to pay for the whole care.

A digital therapeutics program for chronic back pain was introduced by her employer after 2 years of Maria’s first onset of pain. Since it was a virtual program, she could follow it at your her own time. She spoke to the coach right after signing up, who let her know that when it comes to pain management, she has to take charge and become an active part of her own care and unlike traditional models, this program’s emphasis is on self-management.

“I finally figured out that this is my pain,'” Maria said “‘and I’m going to have to own it if I want to get better.'”

Maria and her coach worked together on the goals first. Getting pain under control was first objective. Next on the list was improved function and quality of life, so she can get back to things she likes.

Maria particularly liked the composition of the digital pain management program. It was structured, yet flexible to meet her needs. Like most people with chronic pain, she had developed a fear for exercise. Her coach identified a modest exercise program that she could do safely. The exercises were given to her on a bi-weekly basis. Unlike the stick figures that she received during her in-person physical therapy, these exercise were prescribed right in the app. She could do it anytime of the day. She was able to provide her feedback after each exercise and knew that her therapist is going to review it.

The program connected her to the behavioral coach as well. The behavioral coach informed her that she has to learn to relax and taught her about deep breathing, visualization, and other relaxation techniques to help her better manage the pain she was living with. In addition, she was given byte-size education materials to view. The structured and timely education delivered via short videos was easy to go through, informative and in turn helped her in reducing fear, anxiety and pain related distress.

Now in her third month of the program, she feels like she is in control of her pain and health. She has chosen to focus on her abilities—not her disabilities. She believes that she can live a normal life in spite of chronic pain. It has been an extraordinary journey for her. What seemed impossible just a few months ago appears within reach.

Sprite Health’s corporate musculoskeletal program 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.