Six Things to Consider When Choosing a Digital MSK Solution

Minimizing the impact of chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) pain on physical and mental health in a post-COVID world.

6 min read
A man sits on a couch and works on his laptop.

The new “workplace”  

How work is defined and where it takes place has changed greatly in the past few months as uncertainty and complexity in a post-COVID world have become part of our daily lives. With the rapid acceleration of remote-work technologies, telehealth, and telemedicine, HR and benefits managers are facing a new set of challenges as businesses across the nation return to work.

One constant, however, is the importance of navigating and minimizing the impact of chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) pain on physical and mental health during stressful times. MSK back pain accounts for more lost workdays and more healthcare spend than any other chronic health condition, with MSK disorders resulting in annual direct costs to US employers of $20 billion and indirect costs of $100 billion. Nationally, based on Kaia Health’s book of business, MSK disorder costs prior to implementing a digital MSK solution range from $450 to $500 per member per year (PMPY), with a 25% prevalence among employees.

Because HR and benefits managers have a powerful role to play in ensuring the health, success, and well-being of employees, choosing the right MSK solution is more important than ever. As professionals, we all want to know how a solution works, what the costs are, and what the downside is. Kaia Health goes beyond the functionality and cost of the solution and provides the insight to identify the best solution in terms of efficacy, engagement, retention, and provable cost savings necessary to create a true culture of wellness. Here are six important things to consider when choosing a digital MSK solution, along with the most important questions you can ask:

A woman holding a coffee cup smiles at her cell phone.

1. Accessibility

Today’s digital MSK solution must be easily scalable and accessible through widely available, on-the-go devices such as smartphones and tablets. The less hardware required, the more easily a digital solution can be deployed, scaled, and maximized for a target population.

  • What steps do you take to ensure seamless access to a diverse population across geographies?
  • How portable and available is your solution?

2. Engagement

An effective MSK pain-management solution must create a positive user experience while remaining highly effective, resulting in greater levels of engagement, quality feedback, and improved clinical and economic outcomes. A positive user experience comes from the right communication strategy, technology, and a human touch. A virtual MSK solution can be delivered leveraging the latest computer vision technology or through sensor-based systems but must be able to blend technology and artificial intelligence with personalized human coaching in order to address the complex psychological aspects of MSK pain.

  • How do you incorporate user feedback into the design of your solution to make it better and easier to use?
  • How do you communicate with and intrinsically motivate the user to participate in the program?

3. Evidence-based outcomes

The higher the level of clinical evidence and user experience available, the better it is for a digital MSK solution success. Have well-designed, randomized, controlled clinical trials—which use independent principal investigators—been conducted and published? And is the research continuing? Being able to answer these questions positively can help ensure a high level of scientific validation with rigorous clinical methodologies, which in turn will result in long-term reimbursement and provider confidence.

  • Do you have independently published research that has been peer-reviewed (vs marketing pieces)?
  • What are the limitations of your study/studies, and how are you addressing them?

4. Integration

Musculoskeletal issues is just one aspect of your employees’ lives, and oftentimes they co-occur with other chronic conditions. Therefore, it’s crucial for today’s solutions to be “interoperable” with your benefits ecosystem so that all pieces of the puzzle are speaking to one another. How are your current vendors working together to best serve each member of your population as a VIP?

  • How exactly can you integrate with my current ecosystem, such as warm transfers and handoffs?
  • What can I expect as an administrator, and what can each of my employees expect?

5. Pricing

The most common digital MSK pricing models are per-employee-per-month (PEPM) and per active member per month. And payment models may include enrollment fees, performance-based fees, and annual licensing. Sorting out these variables can be a challenging and time-consuming task for decisions your team; therefore, it’s important to understand your population’s usage patterns and to ask the right questions about pricing and cost structure, including the following:

  • What is your pricing structure (PEPM or per active member per month)?
  • How do you define an active user, and do you measure meaningful engagement? Do you bill upfront or on a monthly basis for the program?
  • How does your pricing structure align with my population’s usage patterns?
  • What billing options do you support—wellness budget or medical claims—and what are the benefits of each option?

6. ROI

An effective MSK solution should provide specific and trustworthy return on investment (ROI) and return on value (ROV) guarantees. This means being able to meet actual claims savings, engagement, and user satisfaction goals. MSK solution providers with robust solutions should be willing to put their reputation and capital at risk in order to guarantee that performance and ROI milestones are met.

  • What methodology do you use to measure and assess this? Is the ROI quantifiable through claims, or is it self-reported?
  • What assumptions do you make? Are you willing to put 100% of your fees at risk based on performance?

COVID fallout and opportunity

Being tuned in to MSK-related health conditions of returning employees can help your team better address new challenges as they arise. For example, a recent Kaia Health survey revealed that 46% of US chronic-pain patients felt their overall health has declined since COVID-19 and their mental well-being was negatively affected through anxiety or feelings of loneliness.

The good news is that digital therapeutics offer employers new and better therapy options, and Kaia Health is at the forefront of digital therapeutics technology, with a proven track record of innovation and engagement. This is exemplified by our unique Motion Coach™ technology, which combines advanced computer vision and motion analysis with cell phone capabilities to reach more employees in a target population compared with solutions that require added hardware. In addition, our highly trained and accredited coaches are available to guide, motivate, and complement our Motion Coach™ technology.

Making the right MSK DTx choices

The move toward evidence-based, integrated, and scalable DTx solutions is being driven rapidly forward in today’s post-COVID environment, empowering MSK health through high-tech, yet personalized, digital engagement. By making the right MSK DTx choices, even the largest organizations can build momentum toward creating a culture of well-being, engagement, and trust while controlling healthcare spend. Click Here to view and download our simple Digital MSK Vendor Assessment tool.

At Kaia Health, we’re fiercely dedicated to advancing healthcare with technology and helping employers meet employees where they are. From serving leading enterprise and self-insured employers to the largest life-science organizations, our products tackle top cost drivers such as MSK and COPD conditions with a blend of expert medical knowledge, advanced technology, and evidence-based techniques.

To learn more about how we can help get your teams back to work—from remote work to in-office environments—while making a positive change in their health and happiness, schedule a brief intro call or demo with our team.

Further Reading