How Chico’s FAS’s Condition Management Approach Upstream Avoided Costs Downstream
Chico’s FAS’s benefits priority of looking at the overall well-being of its associates prompted a focus on condition management upstream as opposed to inaction until costs begin accumulating downstream. For example, musculoskeletal (MSK) surgery and opioid spend were on the rise. We adopted a phased condition management approach, starting with musculoskeletal conditions.
Chico’s FAS is a retail chain that includes the Chico’s, White House Black Market, and Soma brands. The company serves customers through brick-and-mortar stores as well as a digital e-commerce business. Most of Chico’s FAS’s thirteen thousand associates work in retail stores, warehouse distribution centers, and customer service call centers.
Shifting to an Upstream MSK Management Approach
Most of the work in Chico’s FAS’s retail stores and warehouses requires standing all day or lifting heavy items. Lower back pain is a common problem, and we were seeing increases in our MSK spending levels. In fact, MSK had become one of our top five cost drivers.
As a company, Chico’s FAS has adopted a benefits philosophy that takes a whole-person approach to wellness. It focuses on three pillars: emotional and mental well-being, physical well-being, and financial wellness. We like to address both the emotional and physical aspects of health, since they are closely related. This mindset prompted us to look at how factors like diet, lifestyle, weight, exercise, stress, and mental health affect conditions like MSK and diabetes.
Along with the prevalence of MSK issues among employees, Chico’s FAS discovered that expensive surgeries and opioid prescription fill rates were on the rise. In response, the company decided to look at upstream condition management approaches, not wait until costs accumulated downstream.
As Chico’s FAS evaluated different MSK condition management solutions, one of the biggest challenges for the benefits team was finding an option that would work for its highly diverse workforce. Employees work in a variety of settings, and the warehouse is located in rural Georgia, where access to medical care is limited. Digital solutions definitely had an appeal. Since our workforce is dispersed across the country, we always look first for benefits that every employee can participate in. Other key considerations include the cost–benefit analysis and whether the solution meets employee needs in ways that are distinct from existing benefit programs.
Chico’s FAS appreciated that Hinge Health’s Digital MSK Clinic focuses on the entire MSK journey from prevention to post-surgery. Hinge Health’s holistic approach pairs physical therapists with health coaches to engage members, drive lifestyle and behavior changes, and help participants stick with the program.
We rolled Hinge Health out two years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We were lucky to have a program in place that made it possible for associates to access MSK resources virtually from their homes.
Employees Report Reduced Pain, Better Mental Health, and Lower Absenteeism
Chico’s FAS has been very pleased with employee engagement with the Hinge Health program. On average, participants complete two to three exercise therapy sessions per week, interact with Hinge Health’s coaches and physical therapists about five times per week, and read one to two educational articles per week. In terms of satisfaction, Chico’s FAS members rated the Hinge Health program 8.8 of 10.
Thanks to their strong engagement with the Hinge Health program, members have reported great outcomes. Chico’s FAS participants averaged a 52% reduction in pain during the first twelve weeks of the program, which is nearly four times better than can be expected with opioids. This reduction in pain resulted in a 55% decrease in the likelihood of expensive surgeries. In addition, in the first twelve weeks, the number of participants reporting anxiety dropped by 58%, and the number reporting depression decreased by 64%. In terms of financial outcomes and productivity, the projected program results are a 3.7x ROI and a 43% self-reported decrease in absences from work.
We’ve received many great testimonials from our associates. One said, “I’m so grateful to have been a part of this amazing program. I feel like it was built for people like me who need therapy to further their progress with knee health but lack the ability to work it into their schedule outside of the home.”
Another member who had been in a car accident couldn’t afford to attend physical therapy appointments several times a week for months. She signed up for Hinge Health, and after three months she was able to run her first 5K.
Stories like this reaffirm that our decision to adopt Hinge Health was the right one.
Looking Ahead: Addressing the Entire MSK Journey
Chico’s FAS recently rolled out the complete Hinge Health Digital Clinic to cover an associate’s entire MSK journey. The benefits team is excited about the new offerings.
The Hinge Health acute program will help prevent sudden knee and back injuries from becoming chronic. Chico’s FAS is also interested in Hinge Health’s new Enso wearable pain management solution. The company is keen to have associates with severe chronic pain try the nerve stimulation technology as an alternative to opioids.
For condition management, Hinge Health’s wellness and prevention program is big for us. The program helps prevent injuries common in certain job types, such as those held by our warehouse and retail associates. If we can educate members more on the front end and reduce surgery later, our spend will be reduced.
Lessons Learned: 5 Best Practices for Evaluating and Implementing Digital Health Solutions
Get under the hood. Understand the team and how the back-end processes will work.Analyze the members’ entire journey. How will the solution address their end-to-end experience? Will there be gaps in care?
Evaluate the benefits. For example, with MSK, will the solution help members avoid surgeries and opioid use?
Consider the pricing model. Not all solutions charge in the same way. Hinge Health, for example, uses a pricing model based on a one-time fee per member.
Over-communicate to employees. Communication will always be a challenge for dispersed workforces. Try to surround employees with a combination of business and personal email messages, home mailings, and posters in the workplace.
If you are interested in finding out more about how to partner with Hinge Health’s Digital MSK Clinic, request a demo).
Erin Lansberry is a senior manager of benefits at Chico’s FAS. Erin manages the evaluation and selection of benefits programs for over 13,000 associates. With over fifteen years of HR experience, she plays a key role in the design and implementation of benefits programs that improve the overall health outcomes and lives of Chico’s FAS's associates and their families.
Kristopher Greenslade is an associate director and consultant in Willis Towers Watson’s health and benefits practice. His client experience ranges from medium- to large-market employers and includes both private and public sector employers with active and retiree populations.