How Waters Corporation Enhances Employees’ Whole Self with Digital MSK Care

October 26th, 2020  by  Robert DiFabio – Sr. Director of Global Benefits and Mobility at Waters Corporation

At Waters Corporation, our mission is to “Deliver Benefit” to both our customers and our employees. To achieve this goal internally, our Total Rewards team provides programs and services that help our employees achieve rewarding careers, healthy lives, and bright futures.

Waters Corporation is the world's leading specialty measurement company focused on improving human health and well-being through the application of high-value analytical technologies and industry-leading scientific expertise. Whether it’s discovering new pharmaceuticals, assuring the safety of the world’s food and water supplies, or ensuring the integrity of a chemical entity in production, we are constantly working with our 40,000+ customers to change the world. With a global workforce of more than 7,000 employees, Waters conducts business in 35 countries, operates 15 manufacturing facilities, and has products available in more than 100 countries.

At Waters, because our goal is to improve human health, we are always striving to enhance every employee’s well-being and whole self. Prevention is important to us, and we partnered with Hinge Health’s Digital Clinic for chronic back and joint pain to provide more effective early intervention for our employees and avoid unnecessary surgeries. The healthcare benefits landscape was very different when I first started my career over 25 years ago. Back then, healthcare benefits were just focused on the medical side, but today, employee benefits have evolved to become much more holistic to support the whole self.

I shared some of my best practices as a healthcare benefits leader on a Conference Board webinar, on October 6, with Dr. Jeff Krauss, Chief Medical Officer at Hinge Health. Here is a summary of what I shared, which hopefully other benefits leaders will find useful.

Diverse workforce: Assembly workers to scientists

At Waters, we do everything, including research and development, product development, testing, manufacturing, sales and training, and customer service. As a result, our workforce is incredibly diverse, spanning from assembly workers building our product to world-renowned chemists inventing our next product. The average age of our workforce is in the upper forties, and we have many tenured employees.

As you can imagine, from our assembly workers to our laboratory scientists, musculoskeletal (MSK)—back and joint—pain is common in our workforce. In fact, MSK is the number three cost driver at Waters, accounting for 11% of our medical spend. With a high percentage of our population experiencing back and joint pain, we needed to help them resolve this pain more effectively. Surgeries were not only expensive and invasive, they weren’t always leading to reduction of our members’ pain.

MSK solution must align with our benefits philosophy

When looking for a benefits solution to address our members’ back and joint pain, the solution had to align with our benefits philosophy as well as our company priorities and values. We chose Hinge Health because the solution aligned really well with all of these criteria.

  • Overall well-being. Any benefit we evaluate needs to help our employees and their families live happier and healthier lives. At Waters, we strive to enhance the overall well-being of our employees, whether they struggle with chronic pain, emotional pain, or financial literacy. For example, if an employee is experiencing chronic back and joint pain that’s affecting their ability to do the things they love, our goal is to help reduce this pain and improve their quality of life.
  • Prevention. When it comes to health benefits, we prioritize those benefits that focus on prevention. We want to empower our employees and their families to take care of themselves. We all know how complex our health system is right now. If we can remove friction to help them take care of their health, we’re happy to do so. This will also help our bottom line by avoiding medical claims. This is one of the reasons we partnered with Hinge Health’s Digital MSK Clinic—to intervene earlier and resolve chronic MSK pain before it leads to expensive surgeries.
  • Access. Finally, whatever benefit we select needs to provide a great member experience and easy access to care. We want it to be so simple and seamless that our employees don’t think twice about taking advantage of the new benefit. For example, before the pandemic, we offered an on-site health clinic, fitness center, massage therapist, dental cleaning, eye exam, financial consultant, and mental health support. We also offer a range of virtual care services, which have become increasingly critical during the pandemic. Hinge Health’s virtual delivery format helped make it easy for our employees to access care from the comfort of their homes.
  • Engagement. Offering a lot of benefit programs is worthless if people aren’t actually benefiting from them. We are careful to choose programs that will be utilized by our population and we partner with vendors that will go above and beyond to market their services and drive member engagement. If we’re going to put this effort into the program, we want them to keep coming back. Hinge Health matches each participant with a clinical care team, a dedicated physical therapist, and a health coach, who works with them for a year to drive engagement and hold participants accountable. In fact, the way the Hinge Health program is structured helps drive ongoing engagement.

Our benefits partners should also reflect our company values

In addition, offering benefits is more than just offering a comprehensive and competitive benefits package. It’s also important to look at potential partners through the lens of your own company priorities. Our company priorities influence all our benefits decisions. For example, growth is important to us. The vendor needs to be successful and actively growing. There are a lot of new vendors out there, but not all of them are proven or actively growing.

Innovation is another company priority that we expect our vendors to reflect. We prefer vendors who are market leaders and advancing their field. For example, we’re excited about Hinge Health’s new launch of their more comprehensive Digital MSK Clinic, which covers our populations from prevention to post-surgery rehab. We like to see our partners innovating and constantly evolving their solutions. Quality is another important company priority for us, and we expect our vendor partners to have proven and validated clinical outcomes. We chose Hinge Health because the solution aligned really well with all these criteria.

Our innovative marketing tactics to drive enrollment

Once we select our vendor, Waters implements innovative marketing tactics to drive record member enrollment metrics. When it comes to marketing benefits, we believe it’s important to meet the workforce where they are. Here are some of our best practices:

  • Communicate in a variety of formats for our diverse workforce. For example, some employees don’t regularly access a computer while at work, so texting, home mailers, and posters might be a better way to reach them. We always have our marketing materials drive members to our benefits portal, where they can access a wide variety of formats—whether they prefer a brief video overview or a deep dive on the data.
  • Leverage managers as evangelizers. Whenever we launch new benefits, we always conduct a pre-training with our people managers. We know that word of mouth is powerful, so we ask our managers to distribute and broadcast the new benefit as they are regularly in front of our employees.
  • Challenge vendors to be flexible. I challenge my vendors to be flexible and customize their marketing materials for our diverse workforce. I don’t accept canned marketing materials, but instead ask for text and format changes to suit our workforce. When we rolled out Hinge Health, the team was flexible and worked with us closely to design customized marketing materials, including postcards, posters, emails, in-person demos, videos, etc. The implementation went really smoothly and resulted in enrolling 7.5% of the Waters population, which is much higher than the industry average of 4%–5% enrollment in MSK benefits.

Hinge Health clinical and financial outcomes

The Hinge Health clinical care model includes an app and sensor technology combined with a dedicated physical therapist and health coach matched with each member. The result was incredible engagement and member outcomes.

Participants enjoyed an average 51% reduction in pain after the first 12 weeks. To put that into context, in clinical trials with opioids, the average pain reduction was 15%. Our members were seeing pain reduction that was over three times what they could have expected with opioids.

How Waters Corporation Enhances Employees’ Whole Self with Digital MSK Care - Pain Reduction Outcomes

One of our employees, Jon, is a manufacturing engineer. Back pain prevented him from playing with his kids. He ranked his pain as a 7 out of 10, but after the Hinge Health program he rated his pain as a 0 out of 10. Being pain-free, he was able to enjoy quality time playing ball with his kids in his backyard. This is why we do this—for these heartwarming stories about how we’re improving the quality of our employees’ lives.

From a financial perspective, Waters also saw a 42% reduction in surgery likelihood after three months with one in two surgeries avoided, resulting in a 3.1x ROI.

How Waters Corporation Enhances Employees’ Whole Self with Digital MSK Care - Financial Outcomes

When it comes to mental health outcomes, we saw a 94% reduction in the number of participants with anxiety and a 79% reduction in the number of participants with depression after the first 12 weeks. You can only imagine the impact this has on their lives.

How Waters Corporation Enhances Employees’ Whole Self with Digital MSK Care - Mental Health Outcomes

When people aren’t in pain, this improves their productivity at work. After the first 12 weeks of the Hinge Health program, we witnessed a 40% decrease in absenteeism and presenteeism.

Finally, I’ll leave you with one takeaway. Before you select a vendor partner, make sure the partner aligns with your benefits philosophy and company priorities and values. This ensures you will work effectively together as a team and ultimately result in positive outcomes for your employees.

If you would like to find out how your company can help resolve your members chronic MSK pain and achieve similar results, request a demo with Hinge Health below."

Robert DiFabio

About the Author

As the Senior Director of Global Benefits and Mobility, Robert DiFabio plays a pivotal role in development and implementation of innovative benefits programs for Waters Corporation's 7,000+ global employees. An HR professional with over 25 years of benefits experience, Rob has become a champion of designing benefits strategies that improve the lives and overall health of Waters' employees and their families. Rob holds a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in business with a focus on human resources management from Roger Williams University.

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