What’s the women’s health benefit you may be missing?
Addressing pelvic floor disorders can improve the lives of women in the workplace and help reduce unnecessary claims costs
In working with women with pelvic health disorders at Hinge Health, we hear a lot of comments like these:
“My physical therapist blew my mind. By the end of the call, I felt like we’d seen each other 100 times. She validated a lot of things I had been feeling. I’m extremely optimistic about relieving my pelvic pain now.”
“I was very hesitant to make an appointment to talk to someone about my pelvic floor issues, but my [physical] therapist validated my fears, normalized my condition, and helped me with action steps. I feel so heard. In my city, I have to drive over 50 minutes to see a pelvic floor PT. This is the first time after three babies that I can finally get pelvic floor physical therapy.”
We’re thankful that so many women are finally getting the pelvic floor care they need, but we know more work needs to be done to help everyone understand these issues and how they can be successfully treated.
Women’s pelvic health disorders are common, affecting a quarter of women in their lifetime. Symptoms from pain to urinary incontinence and more impact every aspect of a woman’s day, from their attentiveness at work to the activities they can comfortably engage in.
Therapy is available—and effective. And yet, we continuously hear from women who don’t know care is available, can’t access it, feel hopeless about their condition, or resign themselves to surgery being the only answer.
Their symptoms persist and many take in the only message that’s left to hear: ‘This is just something you’ll have to learn to deal with.’
But it’s not.
As a benefits provider, you can help the women in your workforce by providing access to the specialized care they need and aren’t reliably getting. And in doing so, you can bring an aspect of women’s health that is often overlooked—and the women who get overlooked right along with it—into the light.
What are pelvic health disorders?
Pelvic health disorders occur when the muscles and tissues supporting the bladder, uterus, rectum, and bowel—which compose what’s known as the pelvic floor—are compromised due to weakening or injury.
This can lead to several issues, the most common of which are:
Urinary incontinence, a loss of bladder control that leads to unexpected urination
Fecal incontinence, a loss of bowel control that leads to the leaking of stool
Pelvic organ prolapse, when the uterus, bladder, or other organs encroach into or come out of the vagina
The rate of co-occurrence of these disorders is high.
Overlooked and Underserved
Women with pelvic floor disorders are suffering in silence and feeling unseen.
Many are unaware that there are non-surgical treatments they can try, or they are discouraged from even talking about their condition because of the stigma surrounding these issues.
Those who do seek care can encounter healthcare providers who miss or minimize their symptoms. When trying to find a specialist, they often come up empty: Only 7% of physical therapists are trained in pelvic health, drastically limiting access.
“With a severe shortage of available physical therapists and long wait times for care, coverage in theory does not always equal access in practice,” says Tamara Grisales, MD, urogynecologist at UCLA Health and senior expert physician at Hinge Health.
How pelvic health disorders affect women
Pelvic floor issues can cause or contribute to a host of concerns that employees simply can’t leave at the door when they come to work, including:
Pelvic pain, which can be significant and cause distraction or absence
Incontinence that results in frequent bathroom visits, urinary and fecal accidents, reduced effort during physical tasks (for fear of prompting leakage), reduced attendance, and more.
Disrupted sleep that contributes to inattention and mistakes
Stress, self-consciousness, and embarrassment that impacts mental health and focus
Sexual dysfunction, which can further affect mental health
The symptoms and challenges posed by pelvic health disorders can consume a woman’s thoughts and energy, affect her production and focus, and add a level of stress that can’t be effectively managed until her physical condition is treated.
How pelvic health affects your business
Of course, when weighing what benefits to offer your employees, decisions rest on the extent to which an issue is affecting your workplace efficiency and medical claims.
If pelvic health disorders sound less consequential than other conditions you are focused on, consider that treatment for chronic pelvic pain costs $29,951 per patient.
Treatment for pelvic organ prolapse or stress incontinence costs $8,508 to $19,616 per patient, with the upper end of that range exceeding the cost of treating chronic knee pain.
Lost productivity is also a notable consideration. Half of women with pelvic floor disorders report that their condition(s) negatively affect their workplace productivity. And women with urinary incontinence are limited in performing their job demands 13% of the time.
And this can go on for years. It takes an average of 6.5 years for a woman to seek care for urinary incontinence, for example. And once they do, they aren’t seen by a PT for an average of 93 days because of long wait times.
A concern for women of all ages
A quarter of women will experience a pelvic floor issue in their lifetime.
It’s easy to assume these problems only affect women in their later years, but consider these hypothetical employees who represent the range of women with pelvic health issues. Then compare their demographics to those of your team members. Chances are good you’ll find parallels:
Madison is a 29-year-old whose bladder is irritated by smoking. This causes her to take frequent bathroom breaks. She also often leaks urine because of the strain her chronic cough puts on her pelvic floor muscles.
Prisha, a 42-year-old mother of two, has weakened pelvic floor muscles thanks to her two vaginal deliveries. She leaks urine whenever she lifts anything heavy, so she takes multiple trips to carry items from point A to point B.
Obesity alone can compromise the pelvic floor, as 53-year-old Ellen found out. Ellen’s weight has put pressure on her abdomen so much so that it has caused her uterus to fall down into her vagina, causing pressure in her pelvis and lower back that makes it difficult to sit at her desk for long periods.
The changing hormones that come with menopause have caused the muscles that control bowel movements to weaken in 61-year-old Shaundra. She frequently calls out of work because she worries she won’t be able to stop the urge when it strikes at the office.
Helping women get the care they need
Most pelvic health conditions are highly treatable with conservative, non-surgical options such as pelvic floor physical therapy.
Sadly, women like Madison, Prisha, Ellen, and Shaundra are often simply left to live with or try to manage their symptoms on their own. Or if they seek and find care, their insurance coverage may not be sufficient enough to make it affordable.
By recognizing this and providing your female employees access to a pelvic healthcare program, you’re not just helping to improve their physical and mental health. You can increase their quality of life and their level of engagement at work.
And perhaps more important today than ever before, offering a benefit that specifically and effectively caters to a woman’s health need such as this can also affect how valued and understood your female employees feel, which can improve morale, hiring, and talent retention.
Are My Organization’s Current Benefits Adequately Supporting Women’s Pelvic Health?
Possibly not. Marsh researchers found that only around half of women (55%) say their workplace benefits meet their needs, though three-quarters of women (76%) feel that it is either ‘extremely’ or ‘very important’ that their employers strongly support women’s health issues.
And a Hinge Health-sponsored survey conducted by Arizent Research and Employee Benefit News found that 51% of benefits professionals familiar with pelvic floor PT said their companies’ healthcare plans don’t adequately cover it, or they aren’t sure whether their coverage is sufficient.
How Hinge Health Can Help
Hinge Health’s Women’s Pelvic Health pathway is a new standard for nationally accessible, clinically validated pelvic health care.
An experienced pelvic floor physical therapist, women’s health coach, and a urogynecologist (if needed) help create and evolve a customized plan with guided exercise therapy sessions—and work to keep members on track.
High-risk members are also proactively identified so that conservative interventions can begin sooner, not later.
Members connect with our providers over a tablet or smartphone and can do so at various times of the day that are most convenient to them—with no out-of-pocket costs—eliminating several of the accessibility hurdles that traditionally get in the way of care.
Add a benefit that’s truly meaningful to both you and your employees. Contact us for a demonstration and customized business case analysis.
Complete care for the unique musculoskeletal needs of women
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