Six Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Digital Musculoskeletal Solution

Here are a few tips on how to choose a musculoskeletal (MSK) pain management program that will improve outcomes and lower costs for your organization.

6 min read

Find the right MSK solution for your workplace

MSK back pain accounts for more lost workdays and healthcare spend than any other chronic health condition, with MSK disorders costing U.S. employers an annual $7,800 per patient³, accounting for 17% of annual healthcare budgets.²

To cut MSK healthcare costs, HR and benefits managers have begun to implement corporate musculoskeletal programs geared toward preventing and treating back, joint, and chronic pain. By increasing awareness surrounding these conditions, and helping employees to prevent, manage, and mitigate their pain, organizations have the potential to significantly increase employee satisfaction, productivity, and long-term health outcomes.

But how can you be sure to choose the right digital MSK solution for your employees? Here are six important questions to ask:

Is the MSK solution easy to adopt?

To ensure adoption and engagement, you want to make sure that the digital MSK benefit you select is easily accessible to your diverse employee population. In today’s work-from-home world, users will need to be able to access their MSK therapy program anywhere, anytime.

The less equipment, the better

The less hardware required, the more easily a digital solution can be deployed, scaled, and maximized for a target population. A lot of MSK solutions on the market today require the use of sensors, wearable devices, and other equipment to complete digital therapy exercises. This can quickly become cumbersome for users who only have a few minutes a day to dedicate to the program, and don’t necessarily want to fuss with complicated or clunky equipment.


Keep in mind that many users are not native English speakers and will feel most comfortable working with a program that is available in other languages. With more than 40 million Spanish speakers in the U.S., benefits providers are looking to increase program engagement by offering these solutions in Spanish as well as English. Make sure that the program you select offers an end-to-end experience in Spanish, including all digital content, exercise guidance, feedback, and human support so Spanish speaking users can self-serve their way through the program comfortably and effectively.

Does it offer a holistic, personalized approach?

A whole body approach to pain management

MSK disorders often present with associated comorbidities like anxiety, depression, and insomnia. In fact, poor sleep and depression can actually worsen physical pain and vice versa so it’s important to address every aspect of a user’s pain – not just the physical symptoms. This is often referred to as a multimodal approach, and will include physical exercises, relaxation techniques, and educational content that empowers people to better understand and take control of their pain.

Exercises customized to each individual

Every user is going to have unique pain areas, mobility, and goals. The digital MSK solution you choose should take those factors into consideration, and create therapy plans that are personalized to each individual.

It’s also important that the program is able to adapt with the user through every stage of their pain journey by enabling them to tackle multiple pain areas at the same time, adjust difficulty levels as needed, and switch their main therapy focus (without an additional cost to you). An effective digital MSK program is also able to track user progress in real-time and relay that information to the appropriate care team to ensure that every individual is on the right path to pain relief.

Has the solution produced strong clinical outcomes?

The higher the level of clinical evidence and user experience available, the better.

  1. Have well-designed, randomized, controlled clinical trials using independent principal investigators been conducted and published?
  2. Were the clinical studies conducted by the solutions vendor or by independent investigators?

Being able to answer these questions positively can help ensure a high level of scientific validation with rigorous clinical methodologies, which will result in long-term reimbursement and provider confidence.

Pro tip: Look for a vendor that is endorsed by the Validation Institute, a network of healthcare vendors, health benefits advisors, and purchaser benefit managers focused on delivering better health value and stronger outcomes than conventional healthcare. Solutions that have received Program Validation by Validation Institute carry the highest validation for clinical outcomes, cost savings and clinical rigor, and are backed by a guarantee of up to $100K.

Does it integrate with your existing care delivery workflows?

It’s crucial that the digital MSK solution you select is interoperable with your benefits ecosystem so that all pieces of the puzzle are speaking to one another. Make sure that your current vendors work together to best serve each member of your population, and that whatever digital MSK solution you choose will integrate seamlessly into that ecosystem to facilitate warm transfers and handoffs when a user’s condition requires care escalation.

Pro tip: When services provided overlap too much with your existing vendors, it can create redundancies in the care workflows, complicate the user experience, and drive up costs. The care team you decide to work with should be well trained in working with vendor partners, and providing referrals and warm handoffs for your population as needed.

Is the pricing structure transparent and easy to understand?

Payment models may include enrollment fees, performance-based fees, and annual licensing. These structures can often be complex, with various hidden fees that make sorting out these variables a challenging and time-consuming task for your team. It’s important to understand your population’s usage patterns and ask the right questions about pricing and cost structure, including the following:

1. What is your pricing structure?

2. When are fees triggered by a user? Do you bill upfront or on a monthly basis?

3. Are there additional one-time or recurring fees for implementation, set-up, or communication?

4. Are all components of your solution included, or are there buy-up costs for certain programs or features?

5. What billing options do you support and what are the benefits of each option?

Do users have access to clinical support and advanced technology?

One of the greatest benefits of offering a digital MSK solution is that it enables users to engage with their program anytime, anywhere – no appointments, no wait times, no commutes. That said, some level of professional supervision is still needed to ensure exercises are being performed correctly and that users are on the right care path.

Real time exercise feedback

Advanced computer vision technology enables smartphone and tablet cameras to “see” more like humans do, analyzing the user’s movement patterns during exercises for real-time analysis and providing live, corrective feedback. When selecting a solution, opt for one that is specifically designed for healthcare settings, has been tested and proven by users in-market, and is clinically validated by peer-reviewed publications.

1:1 sessions with health coaches and physical therapists

A dedicated support system is pivotal for users starting new routines and working toward long-term health goals. In fact, research supports that coaching plays a significant role in enhancing the success of health programs.⁴ Engaging with well-trained and accredited professionals during 1:1 sessions allows users to set realistic goals, develop actionable plans, stay motivated, and more effectively work through setbacks.

Many digital MSK solutions will limit the number of sessions available to users, so make sure to choose a program that offers unlimited access to a care team who can support users dynamically based on their needs, and adjust or escalate care plans as necessary.

Lower MSK costs for your organization with Kaia Health

At Kaia, we’re dedicated to advancing healthcare with technology and helping employers meet employees where they are. Delivering impactful results, our programs address high-cost musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions by combining expert medical insights, state-of-the-art technology, and evidence based techniques

To learn more about how Kaia can help you lower costs and boost health outcomes, visit 

1. Nobel J, MD, MPH; Sherman C; Sasser E, MPH; Pickering L, MPH. Preventing and Treating Musculoskeletal Disorders: New Strategies for Employers. September 2017.
2. Friedman J, MD, FAST. Complex, Costly Conditions: A Strategic Imperative for Payers and Employers. Chief Medical Officer, Medical Benefit Management, Optum.
3. Yelin EH, PhD; Watkins-Castillo SI, PhD. Cost to Treat Musculoskeletal Diseases. In: BMUS: The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States. Published 2014.
4. Rethorn ZD, Pettitt RW, Dykstra E, Pettitt CD. Health and wellness coaching positively impacts individuals with chronic pain and pain-related interference. PLoS One. 2020;15(7):e0236734.

Further Reading