How AutoZone Personalized Employee Healthcare and MSK Benefits

January 26th, 2022  by  Matthew Harmon – Vice President of Benefits, Compensation, and HR Systems at AutoZone

Healthcare is often difficult to navigate, and our AutoZoners depend on us to make it simple. As a result, our benefits priority is to personalize and integrate our AutoZoners’ healthcare to make it easy for them to get the right care at the right time.

AutoZone, Inc.

AutoZone is the nation's leading retailer and a leading distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories with more than 6,000 stores in US, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Brazil. Each store carries an extensive line for cars, sport utility vehicles, vans, and light trucks, including new and remanufactured hard parts, maintenance items, and accessories. Since opening its first store in Forrest City, Arkansas, on July 4, 1979, the company has joined the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: AZO) and earned a spot in the Fortune 500.

Since most of our AutoZoners are hourly retail workers with active workdays, it’s no surprise that musculoskeletal conditions have always been a top cost driver.

To tackle this top condition, here’s how AutoZone has personalized musculoskeletal (MSK) care to drive better AutoZoner outcomes.

AutoZoner’s MSK challenge

To improve our AutoZoners’ quality of life, we knew that we needed to break down the following roadblocks to MSK care.

  • Lack of awareness of alternative MSK care options. Many AutoZoners with MSK issues were giving up on in-person physical therapy and instead turning to pain medications and surgery to address their pain. Education and prevention are critical to make people aware of alternatives to MSK care other than surgery. However, before Hinge Health, there weren’t any good programs that met people where they were.
  • Low engagement with healthcare. Engagement with healthcare benefits has also been a continual challenge for us. Over three-quarters (76%) of our workforce are male. They typically don’t go to the doctor unless there’s something wrong, so when they do seek care, they tend to be farther along the spectrum in terms of severity.
  • Time and money are issues for our AutoZoners. Free time is a key challenge for our workforce. Retail employees with 12-hour shifts find it difficult to commit to in-person physical therapy appointments several times a week over several months. And incurring unplanned healthcare expenses is a top concern for AutoZoners. We wanted to help AutoZoners overcome cost barriers and engage with their health.
  • Lack of accountability. Finally, it is difficult for busy AutoZoners to make all their in-person physical therapy appointments, let alone perform their exercise therapy at home correctly without a feedback loop.

We partnered with Hinge Health because it is able to help our AutoZoners overcome all these barriers. What I really like about Hinge Health is that it pioneered digital MSK care for enterprises in 2015 and is the only solution with a proven track record when it comes to clinical and financial outcomes. There are other newer digital MSK care providers in the market, but many don’t have a long history, any compelling data, or very many clients. Why take a risk with something that’s unproven? You only have one chance to engage your employees in a new benefit.

How we personalize care at AutoZone

We also partnered with Hinge Health because its personalized care team approach allows us to deliver better care. To provide AutoZoners with effective and faster care, we realized that a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t work. In the world of benefits and healthcare, people receive so many communications that they shut down and stop absorbing information. Hyper-personalization is the key to getting the right message to the right people at the right time. When we achieve that goal, we can break the MSK pain cycle and prevent the path to surgery from progressing too far.

To personalize healthcare benefits at AutoZone, we’re implementing the following programs:

  • We’re launching a new provider that positions advocates as the first point of contact and helps members navigate to the right care quickly.
  • Our healthcare benefits user experience is integrated through an app that leverages data to provide personalized recommendations in real time.
  • Our healthcare providers personalize outreach based on claims data and offer the right benefit within our app. For example, if a person has an MSK claim, a provider connects them with sign-up for Hinge Health within the app.
  • Hinge Health’s integrated care team and advanced digital technology enable a personalized approach to MSK care from the comfort of our AutoZoner’s homes.

Hinge Health’s integrated care team and advanced technology personalize MSK care

Hinge Health is more than just a digital MSK solution. The Hinge Health integrated care team creates a relationship of trust with program participants. One-on-one physical therapists and physicians create a personalized care plan. One-on-one health coaches drive engagement because they meet people where they are and assist them with setting their personal goals. One-on-one health coaches are the secret sauce in Hinge Health’s successful engagement model: coaches continually engage AutoZoners throughout the program and help them get unstuck.

In addition, Hinge Health’s sophisticated motion technology provides an instant feedback loop so participants can see whether they’re doing their exercises properly. This starts an internal feedback loop, and AutoZoners begin to gradually overcome their pain and realize they don’t need surgery. Hinge Health’s holistic care team also looks at all the elements that may contribute to MSK conditions. For example, weight may be affecting a person’s ability to do PT properly due to excess pressure on joints causing pain. The coaches go beyond exercises and help program participants with issues like weight and diet. Hinge Health’s Digital MSK Clinic is a one-stop shop for treating MSK pain.

A user-friendly member experience resulted in high engagement

The Hinge Health experience is also very simple and user-friendly. The program dovetails with our AutoZoners app and website, so it’s easy for AutoZoners to access the program.

Of all the healthcare programs that we’ve deployed, Hinge Health has one of the highest—if not the highest—levels of employee engagement. People are really interested in feeling better. When they find ways that can happen without surgery, their motivation increases. I think another contributor to our high levels of engagement is that AutoZoners and their families can interact with Hinge Health at home, on their own schedule. Retail workers generally have multiple jobs and are continually moving from place to place. Convenience is a critical success factor for this program.

AutoZoners were so interested in Hinge Health that on average through week 12 of the program, they participated in three exercise therapy sessions per week and had six weekly care team interactions via text, email, and/or phone. In addition, participants read the coach-recommended educational materials.

Outcomes: MSK pain is down, and productivity is up

With this high engagement, it’s not surprising that we also saw better clinical and financial outcomes. After implementing the Hinge Health program, AutoZoners reported 51% less pain, and we saw a 32% decrease in pain-related absenteeism. That means we have more AutoZoners in our stores than before. When people are in less pain, they are more mentally present with what they’re doing, and that translates to better customer service.

We also saw a 60% reduction in the likelihood that an AutoZoner would have surgery within one year. This has translated into dramatic decreases in the forecasted and actual number of surgeries and the amount AutoZoners and AutoZone spends on surgeries.

AutoZone graph 1

We hear all the time, through numerous unsolicited feedback channels, how much the Hinge Health program means to AutoZoners. It has positively affected their quality of life and changed their outlook for the future. Here are two of my favorite testimonials, which we heard recently:

"Oftentimes I hold back on the tennis court because I'm afraid my knee will start hurting, but now I'm realizing that line of thinking is actually holding me back. I just need to go for it. Movement is medicine for my pain."

"I can't believe I was considering a fourth surgery. For over 30 years not one doctor recommended strengthening my knees through exercise. It was always medication and surgery. Thank you Hinge Health!"

AutoZone and our AutoZoners are grateful and proud that AutoZone offers this service at absolutely no cost to them. That’s important, given today’s war for talent. Wages have become commoditized, and people are looking for employers that care about their employees. Positively affecting a person’s life is an area where we love having a value proposition.

Finally, as you’re selecting your digital MSK provider, I will leave you with three criteria to consider.

3 Tips for selecting an MSK provider

Based on our experience at AutoZone, here are three tips for selecting an MSK provider:

  1. Push providers to show the true evidence. Be sure there is a performance guarantee based on hard data.
  2. Make sure the science is there. There are many digital MSK providers on the market, but many don’t have a long history, compelling data, or real clients.
  3. Look for a holistic solution. The thing that differentiates Hinge Health is that it’s not just a digital solution. Its comprehensive support network creates an engaging and effective participant experience.

To learn more about how you can implement Hinge Health to reduce your members’ MSK pain and your MSK costs, request a demo today!

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Matthew Harmon
About the Author

Matthew Harmon has over 20 years of deep domain expertise in Human Resources. He joined AutoZone Inc. in 2014 as the Director of Benefits and within 6 months he took on HR systems where he was primarily responsible for strategically driving a culture of wellbeing through healthcare consumerism, financial wellness, and productivity while ensuring the right HR systems, insights, process, and leadership/partnership to drive the business forward. In December 2017 Harmon was promoted to an Officer of the company and a member of the company’s CEO team as the Vice President of Benefits, Compensation, and HR Systems.

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