Hinge Health, a Digital Musculoskeletal Clinic™, has released its 2022 State of Musculoskeletal (MSK) Health Report showing many pressing trends affecting MSK care in America. This second edition report highlights care inequities based on race, gender, location, the growing economic burden for employers, and the connection between chronic pain and mental health. Additionally, the findings highlight reducing access-to-care barriers while expanding whole-person care.
One in two Americans experiences back, neck, shoulder, or other MSK pain in any given year, showing widespread impact. Almost every major industry is affected by the increasing reports of MSK pain, with some of the highest prevalences seen in professional services, wholesale and retail trade, transportation and warehousing, manufacturing, healthcare, social services, and education. The current in-person approaches to MSK treatment create gaps in care. According to the 2021 State of MSK report, the current treatments are expensive and time-consuming. The 2021 report found that these medical costs have doubled over the last decade.
Each year, Hinge Health analyzes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent National Health Interview Survey data containing trends across 252 million Americans. This data identifies gaps and challenges that members, employers, and health plans face in managing musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. Hinge Health publishes the results in its annual State of MSK Report, with this year’s report pinpointing five key insights. These insights include:
- MSK pain disproportionately affects Americans: one in two Americans suffer from an MSK condition.
- Health inequities correlate to poor outcomes among those with chronic MSK pain.
- Chronic pain and mental health are linked, so holistic treatment approaches are critical.
- MSK costs $600 billion to the US economy. 90% of employers report MSK as their top medical claims spend. Over the last decade, MSK claims have doubled in the US, even though the number of people with MSK conditions has remained the same.
- MSK surgery rates and costs vary widely by state.
According to the State of MSK 2022 Report, Hinge Health finds that 50% of Americans experience MSK pain in any given year, and employees in specific industries are disproportionately affected. Sectors that are especially prone to MSK claims are those where employees stand all day. These include mining, retail stores, healthcare, food services, and schools and universities. Repetitive tasks and manual labor exacerbate MSK problems, such as manufacturing, warehousing, waste management, and construction.
Health Inequity | Hinge Health
The Hinge Health report highlights that health inequity correlates with poor outcomes. “When people of color, lower-income populations, and residents of rural areas suffer from MSK conditions, they are less likely to have access to modern and clinically validated treatments and more likely to receive opioids for pain relief. These factors lead to negative health outcomes in terms of quality of life and treatment costs.” The report also finds that low-income populations utilize exercise therapy less often for MSK pain than their higher-income peers, with many rural residents having limited access to physical therapy.
Undeniable chronic pain and mental health connection – Two in five people with chronic MSK pain also experience depression and anxiety. Pain can intensify mental health challenges, and conversely, anxiety and depression can worsen chronic pain. 40% of those with chronic pain and mental health needs aren’t getting the necessary support to make lifestyle changes that are key for recovery and are 30% more likely to be prescribed opioids than those with chronic MSK pain alone.
Although people with chronic MSK pain and mental health conditions have significant healthcare needs, many don’t have a care plan based on best practices. In short, MSK pain disrupts daily life. Those with chronic MSK pain and mental health conditions continually have gaps in care. Hinge Health suggests that these individuals require special attention and an integrated MSK care approach that combines education, exercise therapy, and social and behavioral health support to improve health outcomes.
MSK Conditions are a Growing Economic Burden
The annual employer cost of care for MSK conditions, such as back and joint pain, is estimated to be around $600 billion. Treatment costs have been skyrocketing for employers and health plans, while workplace productivity also takes a hit when employees are absent due to MSK pain. Employees with MSK pain missed 8.2 days of work compared to 3.9 days for the average employee. For people with MSK and mental health needs, the number of workdays missed in the past year has increased to 13.
Hinge Health Recommendations
The report makes five key recommendations to employers and health plans:
Understand the impact across the member population – Analyze MSK and mental health medical claims and opioid prescriptions, and segment them by zip codes to determine people benefiting from alternative care. Launch holistic care strategies once the most vulnerable identified population.
Treat the whole person – Go beyond physical therapy and provide an integrated clinical care team that includes doctors of physical therapy, health coaches, physicians, and orthopedists. Members receive personalized exercise therapy plans, lifestyle support, and expert second opinions in this comprehensive care environment.
Utilize digital technology to break down barriers to care – Allow members to access consistent best-practice care at home with zero deductibles and avoid unpaid time off work. Choose a digital MSK provider that offers clinically validated care via an all-in-one app, applying the latest advances in computer vision and sensor technologies to improve the member experience.
End siloed patient care – Utilize electronic medical record integration across in-person and digital care providers and help care teams intervene in real-time.
Employ solutions with proven ROI – Implement care solutions with a proven track record of engagement and impact. Drive positive economic and health outcomes with care options that are comprehensive and clinically validated.”
As Hinge Health concludes in their report, treating chronic MSK pain is complex for various reasons. Pain and mental health are closely linked, yet clinicians often overlook the importance of that relationship. At the same time, social determinants of health correlate with different health outcomes among individuals with MSK conditions. Inequity in healthcare access and delivery is a significant contributor to this issue.
While MSK challenges are complicated, the path forward for employers and health plans is becoming more apparent. Leading organizations adopt MSK solutions that address disparities in care by providing a complete clinical care team, advanced technologies to personalize care at home, and connected care systems that bridge the gap between digital and in-person care.
Digital Health Outlook | Beyond Hinge Health
Change has long been a constant in healthcare, but it has dramatically accelerated in recent years. Digital health tools that facilitate innovative methods and modalities to improve care, enable lifestyle change, and create efficiencies are progressing quickly. The digitalization of healthcare provides a better healthcare delivery experience for both patients and clinicians. Digital is becoming so intertwined with health care that it’s now to be expected by patients.
As healthcare organizations move toward offering more personalized care solutions, they will increasingly need to rely on software and hardware solutions to support these initiatives. The view of digital health solutions is that they are long-term investments that, if implemented correctly, will net great returns. Understanding consumer attitudes and preferences across the patient journey can be central to supporting healthy behaviors, achieving better health outcomes, and improving the patient experience.
About Hinge Health
Hinge Health is building the world’s most patient-centered Digital Musculoskeletal (MSK) Clinic™. It is now the leading Digital MSK Clinic, used by four in five employers and 90% of health plans with a digital MSK solution. Hinge Health reduces MSK pain, surgeries, and opioid use by pairing advanced wearable sensors and computer vision technology with a comprehensive clinical care team of physical therapists, physicians, and health coaches. Hinge Health’s HingeConnect integrates with 1 million+ in-person providers and enables real-time interventions for elective MSK surgeries, driving proven medical claims reduction. Available to millions of members, Hinge Health is widely trusted by leading organizations, including Land O’Lakes, L.L. Bean, Salesforce, Self-Insured Schools of California, Southern Company, State of New Jersey, US Foods, and Verizon.