For most employers, it’s no secret that Musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders are one of the top work related illnesses affecting the productivity and presenteeism of their employees each year. These issues have consistently been among the most commonly reported work-related illnesses with an average of 9 work days spent in bed. One out of every 3 patients that are seeking out healthcare, are doing so due to a musculoskeletal condition. The number of visits to physicians for these disorders, the cost of treating them, and the indirect costs associated with pain and loss of productivity are largely an expense for the employer to bear. With such a prevalence of MSK disorders affecting the population, even a small change aimed at decreasing costs associated with these disorders can have a large impact for an employer.
The course of treating a musculoskeletal condition can be marked by periods of remission and exacerbation, and in many cases, patients may not experience complete resolution of their symptoms and disabilities. When a patient does not improve markedly under a treatment regimen, they continue to move through the care continuum and receive the next treatment modality under their insurance benefit. Many times, a patient exhausts all treatment modalities only to find themselves facing orthopedic surgery. Many of these orthopedic surgeries work no better than a placebo.
The length of time to exhaust one treatment modality can be months to years, during which the patient remains tethered to the healthcare system. Persistent pain without resolution eventually becomes an unresolved condition which can create a significant long-term disability. Unresolved musculoskeletal disorders can make other conditions even more difficult to live with, multiplying their impact. For example, back or knee pain may make it more difficult for people to get the daily physical activity that would help prevent the progression of other chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. The expenses, like the conditions, can compound.