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December 8, 2020

What Can Benefits Managers Do About Musculoskeletal Health?

Artemis Health

Musculoskeletal health is a major concern for employee benefits managers, and for a good reason. A staggering 126.6 million Americans (that’s about half of us) are living with some kind of musculoskeletal disorder. Musculoskeletal condition prevalence is roughly the same as cardiovascular and chronic respiratory conditions combined. It’s a hot topic for the employee benefits industry, which supplies roughly half of Americans with their health insurance. 

Artemis Health helps self-insured employers explore their benefits data and find ways to improve employee health and well-being. In an upcoming research study conducted by Employee Benefit News, Artemis found that benefits teams and their organizations are all aligned on “employee health and well-being” as their top goal for 2021. They want to help employees access quality doctors, convenient physical therapy, and wellness support to treat musculoskeletal conditions in the best way possible. We decided to dive deep into the data on musculoskeletal conditions and find out what the data tells us in a sample employee population. Let’s take a look at what we learned using the Artemis Platform. 

Claims musculoskeletal conditions table
Artemis claims musculoskeletal conditions

First, we looked at some executive overview metrics of musculoskeletal conditions in this sample population of 40,000 employees and their families. You can see that roughly 9,000 people in this group have been treated for musculoskeletal conditions, which is closer to 25% of our population. That’s good news for the employer; their musculoskeletal condition prevalence is lower than that of the U.S. population. It accounts for about 13% of their annual benefits spending and about 15% of their total number of medical claims.

Members treated for musculoskeletal disorders table
Members treated for musculoskeletal disorders

The Artemis Platform makes it easy to look at the diagnoses for these claims, too. You can see that while osteoarthritis is the most expensive condition for these sample members, by far the most common diagnosis is for low back pain. Nearly 1,500 members are suffering with low back pain in this population. Other top conditions include neck pain, knee pain, and shoulder pain. These conditions can be associated with overuse, sports injuries, and sedentary lifestyles. 

Benefits managers may also want to look at providers and office locations to get a sense for how members are seeking care. The Artemis Platform provides a clear view of metrics and breakdowns like this. 

Members treated for low back pain by location
Members treated for low back pain by location

Here, we’ve zeroed in on low back pain and added charts to find out top providers for this conditions and office locations. In our sample “Headquarters” office, low back pain is far more prevalent than in other offices. Depending on the number of people working there, this might indicate a larger problem for the benefits manager, or it might simply reflect the distribution of employees around the country. Additionally, we can see that one provider is treating 153 members for low back pain. A benefits team may want to evaluate this physician or health system for quality and costs.

Members treated for low back pain with PT Claims
Members treated for low back pain with PT Claims

We can also track what percentage of members have sought physical therapy for their musculoskeletal condition. In this chart, we’re looking at what percentage of members with low back pain are participating in physical therapy. Our sample population shows 27% of members are using physical therapy for their low back pain. Now let’s look at another common treatment for low back pain: opioids.

Members treated for low back pain with opioids
Members treated for low back pain with opioids

74% of low back pain sufferers in this population are taking opioids to help them cope. This may raise questions around potential addictive behaviors, although many of these patients may be treated appropriately.

What can benefits managers do about musculoskeletal health? 

Benefits data is truly key in exploring the ins and outs of member health, and you’ve seen how we explored musculoskeletal conditions using the Artemis Platform. These data insights clearly indicated a few actions that benefits teams can take: 

  1. Member communication: Benefits teams can take action on musculoskeletal health with member communication and education materials. Make sure employees and their families know about the care and programs available to them, including any fitness programs, telemedicine, or physical therapy benefits offered on the plan. Many members aren’t aware that these care avenues are provided as part of their coverage, so mailers, emails, and Open Enrollment seminars can help you get the word out. 
  2. Provider quality assessments: If the data reveals one particular provider or health system as the primary provider of musculoskeletal treatment, employers may assess quality and value. They may designate Centers of Excellence or even enter a direct contracting agreement with local health systems to direct members to better quality care. 
  3. Physical therapy programs: Our sample data revealed a clear gap in members participating in physical therapy. One possible intervention for benefits managers is to provide a virtual physical therapy program so employees can participate in the way that’s most convenient for them. 
  4. Ergonomic office equipment: If the benefits data reveals a high prevalence of, say, neck pain at one particular office location, benefits managers may want to bring in an ergonomic evaluator and help people set up their desks, chairs, and computers to help. 
  5. Fitness/wellness benefits: Benefits managers can also help members with musculoskeletal conditions through fitness programs and wellness point solutions. These can include everything from weight loss challenges to free yoga classes, which can help alleviate some of the root causes of musculoskeletal disorders. 

Is your benefits data helping you evaluate the musculoskeletal health and well-being of your employee population? A data analytics solution can help identify problems, measure the impact, and take action to create a healthier workforce. 

Want to learn more about Artemis Health? Check out our 2-minute demo video for a sneak peek.

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