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Jun 20, 2023
‘Sitting disease’ — a serious issue for sedentary workers and their employers
Businesswoman working at ergonomic standing workstation.

The scientific community has associated “sitting disease” having a sedentary lifestyle with 34 chronic diseases and conditions. Sedentary desk workers, like those in the tech industry, have a high rate of musculoskeletal (MSK) injury due to prolonged sitting, which can also cause or worsen these conditions.

According to a 2022 study of office workers, the prevalence of two common sedentary work injuries ranged from 42% to 69% for neck pain and 31% to 51% for lower back pain. The study also reported the 1-year recurrence rate for neck and lower back pain ranged from 23% to 69%, while up to 27% of office workers with neck or lower back pain reported that those problems became chronic.

MSK pain is costly

When employees are in pain, it costs. Suffering employees may deal with related mental health issues and lose productivity, while employers face dramatically higher health care costs. When MSK issues are left untreated, they only become worse.

According to Evernorth, the health services division of The Cigna Group, MSK conditions affect more than 1 in 2 adults, in 2018, and cost our health care system an estimated $420 billion  more than any other chronic condition. Employers spend more on MSK conditions than on any other chronic condition, yet 25% to 40% of MSK condition spending is wasted on ineffective treatments.

Proactive health engagement that is personalized and coordinated

Employees with MSK conditions often face a disconnected care experience. People with these conditions should receive personalized and coordinated care; MSK conditions cannot be treated in isolation. When emotional pain including behavioral health conditions and substance use disorders from overuse of prescription opioids accompany physical pain, treatment complexity and costs increase.

For employers looking to get ahead of the issue something that has quickly become a business necessity for many organizations – a passive approach to MSK conditions simply will not work. That's why Cigna Healthcare aids employers with proactive health engagement programs that help workers achieve ultimate MSK care through personalized counsel and digital-first benefits.

Cigna Pathwell Bone & Joint, a condition-specific care program, is our evidence-based, coordinated, and personalized approach to MSK care. Predictive models and data analytics allow for early identification and intervention. These models continually review member data to predict a likely health-related occurrence, such as surgery. Further, they can identify members at increased risk for knee, back, or hip surgeries as much as a year in advance, with 75% to 93% accuracy. Employees receive information, access, and guidance to personalized care at the right time and often avoid surgery as a result.

Each employee receives an individualized care path based on our digital models and through evidence-based clinical care guidelines. With Pathwell Bone & Joint, employees can expect:

  • A trusted care advocate who offers clinical guidance and works one-on-one with them to tailor a personalized care path and guide them through their wellness, treatment, and recovery journey. The advocate answers questions, provides guidance to pain relief resources other than opioids, and provides support.
  • A guided digital experience that uses insights and evidence-based guidelines to create a unique experience for each member. The digital experience provides personalized activities, assessments, expert content, treatment guidance support, care navigation tools, and more. Emails remind the patients to stay engaged.
  • Guiding to the right care at the right time for better outcomes. Earlier diagnosis means employees can avoid unnecessary surgery as they benefit from less invasive options, such as physical therapy. When surgery is necessary, employees will have access to orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons who meet rigorous Cigna Healthcare criteria on affordability and quality, volume, and outcomes. The care program includes zero-cost or low-cost surgery, pre- and post-surgery support, and a travel benefit for employees.

It's important for employers to recognize the significant impact of MSK conditions in their workforce and address employee risks proactively. With programs like Pathwell Bone & Joint, Cigna Healthcare can be a consultative partner in this effort, leveraging our innovative benefit designs, best-in-class analytics and health engagement teams, and our desire to treat each employee as a unique individual.

Start on the path to promote better health among your employee groups, keep workers happy and on the job, and avoid the financial pitfalls associated with untreated MSK conditions by speaking with your Cigna Healthcare representative or broker today.

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