Disincentives to Lower MSK Surgeries and Costs

Millions think surgery is the only answer to musculoskeletal (MSK) pain or injury. But other therapies often work just as well. Many employees who were required to have an expert medical opinion before an MSK surgery learned just that, canceling surgery or choosing alternate treatment. The employer realized $7 million in savings.

Millions of people suffering from injury or long lasting musculoskeletal (MSK) end up seeing an orthopedic specialist and considering surgery. But exercise, physical therapy, and medication often work just as well. 

Knowing this, a Fortune 50 gas and oil company with a high number of MSK surgeries required employees who were having a hip, back, knee, or spine procedure to have a 2nd.MD expert medical consultation. If they chose not to, they received a $400 penalty.  

Employees were connected to a leading specialist for a one-on-one virtual consultation on average within 1.53 days. Speed is always important, but time is especially critical when surgery is already scheduled. 2nd.MD handles all the details, from release of information, collection of pertinent medical records, and scheduling the call between the specialist and employee. 

Those who participated said they had never received such personalized attention and understood their condition and treatment options much better after their call with the specialist. The employer saw the following results:

  • 25% of surgeries were cancelled 
  • 28% of consultations led to an alternate diagnosis
  • 79% of employees received improved treatment plans
  • Average cost savings per case was $4,500
  • The employer realized $7 million in cost savings from 1/17 – 12/19 


The Power of Medical Certainty

This article summarizes a discussion between Dr. Drew Olivera of Regence Blue Shield in Washington, and Dr. Joel Feigin of UnitedHealthcare. You’ll learn how care has changed in a post-COVID world and what expectations people have for care now.