Shaking up the old paradigm by bringing musculoskeletal care direct-to-employers

LAFAYETTE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#MSK–A landmark study recently published in PM&R by Heidi Ojha, founder of Aware Health, offers a modern alternative to solving self-insured employers’ most costly problem: musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. Musculoskeletal pain–like back or shoulder pain–is ranked more expensive than cancer or cardiovascular conditions. Beyond direct costs are indirect costs from lost productivity and needing to replace workers, making MSK the biggest risk to US companies’ bottom lines.

Ojha and colleagues have conducted research for a decade to find a better alternative that actually works. “Approximately 80% of employees with recent-onset pain recover over time with 1-2 sessions of evidence-based advice, once life threatening conditions are ruled out,” a stark contrast to the traditional model that prescribes drugs, orders imaging, and gives treatment to most. “We should actually be strategically administering care to the remaining 20% at risk for chronicity. Evidence-based treatment for this group is actually less costly and involves addressing psychosocial factors that moderate recovery,” which the traditional system often fails to assess.

The study’s proactive program decreased MSK cost to $318/claim/year, compared with the known employer average of $2,500. This ~$2,000 difference per claim results in deep savings when needed most–during our current cost crisis. The secret to savings is predicting who needs treatment and empowering employees with knowledge to return to health. Most of us assume pain is produced in the injured tissue. Actually, danger messages from the injured tissue pass through the brain in order to produce the sensation of pain, so addressing employees’ beliefs and creating an employee-centered plan can best support them in recovery and return to work…and life.

About Aware Health: Based in Lafayette, CA and founded in 2020, Aware is a female-led healthcare partner who shakes up the insurance-based paradigm with a modern solution: direct-to-employer, on-demand MSK management so employees stay out of the medical system, working productively, and get better, faster. Employers partner with Aware and subscribe at a per member rate. Employees who have MSK symptoms see a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy the same day through tele-rehab. Almost all employees can be accommodated by video call—convenient during social distancing. Employers champion safety and Aware treats pain before it intensifies, thereby preventing significant injuries before they occur.


Heidi Ojha


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