How IDEXX Tackled Musculoskeletal & Mental Health to Enhance Employee Well-Being
June 11th, 2020  by  Debra Tierney, Benefits Manager at IDEXX

At IDEXX, we want our employees and their families to live their healthiest lives. IDEXX creates long-term value for our customers, employees, and shareholders by enhancing the health and well-being of pets, people, and livestock. Our mission means we’re equally committed to the health and well-being of our global employees and their families.

I recently spoke on a webinar hosted by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) together with Dr. Jeff Krauss, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Hinge Health. In this recap blog, I summarize how IDEXX addressed musculoskeletal (MSK) and mental health together to improve our employees’ well-being.

To enhance employee well-being, we partnered with Hinge Health to provide at-home digital care for back and joint pain for our workforce. The impact on our employees’ physical and mental health has been overwhelmingly positive. For example, one of our employees Diane, a lab technician, rated her pain as an 8/10 at the beginning of the treatment and then only 1/10 at the end. She shared, “These exercises are a great support for my back pain. I feel relaxed after each session. I am happy that the exercises do not stress or cause pain in my back, like many exercises before.”

IDEXX is a leader in veterinary diagnostic technology and services

Headquartered in Maine with over 9000+ employees in 175 countries worldwide, IDEXX provides technology and services to support the veterinary industry. For example, we design diagnostic equipment for veterinarians to run blood samples and get real-time results on-site to share with pet parents for treatment options. We also have more than 80 diagnostic laboratories across the world that quickly deliver results to pet and livestock veterinarians. In addition, we offer practice management software and other veterinarian practice informatics solutions.

We want our employees to live their healthiest lives

We have prioritized investing in our workforce’s health and well-being over the last ten years. In our new headquarters in Maine, we purposefully built a state-of-the-art wellness and fitness center with an on-site urgent care center, physical therapy, nutritionist, life coach, and other health experts. We also have a host of wellness platforms and digital solutions to help our global workforce as well.

As part of our overarching health and well-being initiative, we identified chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) pain as a top cost-driver for medical claims at IDEXX. We wanted to get to the bottom of this critical health issue and help our employees overcome chronic back and joint pain. Our workforce is diverse and includes scientists, production line workers, lab technicians, and corporate office staff. But we noticed chronic back, neck, shoulder, and knee pain were prevalent across all these groups. This might involve employees who are too sedentary at their desks, those on their feet at manufacturing facilities, or lab technicians who work in awkward positions and perform repetitive tasks.

The difference in tackling acute vs. chronic MSK pain

We recognized past treatments were not successful and our workforce was still suffering from MSK pain. Dr. Krauss, Chief Medical Officer at Hinge Health, helped us understand the difference between acute MSK pain vs. chronic MSK pain. Acute MSK pain involves a fracture or injury which usually resolves in a finite period. However, chronic MSK pain lasts months or even years and involves expensive treatment options like surgery, injections, and pain medications--accounting for the majority of our MSK medical spend. Despite this high price tag, these treatments have not been particularly effective at resolving chronic MSK pain. We decided to strategically tackle this more persistent chronic pain by identifying alternative options for our workforce.

Mental health and chronic MSK pain are closely related

We also recognized the interconnectedness of chronic MSK pain and mental health. Chronic pain and depression share neural pathways and affect the same region of the brain. 65% of people with depression also report chronic MSK pain. We’ve been investing in improving our workforce’s mental health by running programs to remove the social stigma and sharing powerful employee testimonials to encourage others to take advantage of our mental health resources. As part of our overall employee well-being initiative, it made sense for us to tackle these two comorbidities--chronic MSK pain and mental health--together.

4 criteria that matter to us in choosing a healthcare solution

In selecting the right MSK solution to tackle this complex health issue, 4 criteria were really important to us.

Engaging and user-friendly member experience. When it comes to healthcare solutions and platforms, IDEXX’s goal is to provide a member experience that’s easy and engaging. A user-friendly experience is important to ensure members stick with the treatment plan. In modern life pre-COVID-19, people’s lives were extremely busy with multiple extracurricular activities after work or frequent business travel. Time and location presented challenges for our employees and their dependents to access in-person physical therapy. Now with COVID-19, in-person physical therapy is not even an option. We were looking for a convenient, scalable solution that members could access anytime, anywhere. We knew digital MSK solutions offered this kind of flexibility.

Personalized coaching. We were also really interested in the coaching element. We experienced success with other well-being programs involving coaches who personally connected with participants and kept them accountable.

Seamless integration and ease of implementation. We were also looking for a vendor that connected with our healthcare provider. Seamless integration and ease of implementation were really important to us.

Shared philosophy around data. Because we care about data as a company, we also wanted a partner who shared a similar philosophy. We wanted an ROI guarantee for our healthcare investment not just in terms of dollars but also in terms of positive outcomes for our employees and their dependents. We are always looking for data from vendors to demonstrate their programs are working for us. For example, we wanted to track data on engagement, improvements in chronic pain and mental health, and employee productivity.

We partnered with Hinge Health for a digital MSK solution

Based on all of the above criteria, we decided to partner with Hinge Health in 2020 to address chronic MSK pain through sensor-guided therapy, 1-on-1 remote coaching, and personalized education. We worked closely with Hinge Health on member recruitment through several marketing activities, including exhibiting at employee Health Fairs, emails, and postcard mailers. I’ll tell you quite frankly, we didn’t have any problem recruiting employees to sign up. At our first Health Fair, Hinge Health showcased the solution, and we had a lot of positive interest. After our first member marketing email, Hinge Health enrollment was so strong that we didn’t need to send additional marketing emails.

Hinge Health improved pain, surgery likelihood, anxiety, depression, and productivity for participating employees:

  • Each participant had an average of 54% reduction in pain, that’s 3.5x better than the average pain reduction of opioids.
  • In terms of likelihood of surgery, 1 out of 2 surgeries was avoided and we enjoyed a 2.3x ROI--significantly higher than we expected.
  • When it comes to mental outcomes, we saw an average 70% reduction in anxiety and a 60% reduction in depression after just 6 weeks, proving that chronic pain and mental health are closely related.
  • Recognizing that chronic pain affects the ability for employees to work effectively, participants also reported they were more productive after the Hinge Health program, with a 25% decrease in absenteeism and presenteeism.

In short, we are pleased with the outcomes of our Hinge Health program. It has had such a positive impact on our members with the data demonstrating high engagement, as well as high pain and mental health reduction. It was an eye-opening experience for IDEXX.

Find out how Hinge Health can help you enhance your workforce well-being with a digital MSK solution.

About the Author

Debra Tierney is the North American Benefits Manager for IDEXX Laboratories and manages employee benefits programs for over 6,000 employees. She has been with IDEXX for 20 years in various human resources and benefits related roles. Debra holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology-Environmental Science from Colby College, a Masters of Natural Resources degree from the University of Vermont, and an MBA from the University of Southern Maine.

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