Innovation and the Rising Tide of Healthcare Costs By Kathleen Gramzay, BCTMB  

Innovation is a primary engine for business success. Developing smarter, more efficient ways to deliver better products or services takes engaged, talented people working together. Attracting and retaining them requires an innovative approach to provide benefits that are relevant to today’s workforce, contribute to culture and are cost-effective for the business long term.

That is quite a challenge as healthcare costs continue to soar and national healthcare policy is in flux. According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, the United States spent $3.4 trillion in 2016, 19 percent of which was borne by business. Driven by inflation, costs of medical products/services, and an aging population, that figure is projected to accelerate from 4.6 to 5.6 percent per year to $5.5 trillion by 2025. Prescription drug spending at 6.4 percent per year is projected to grow faster than health spending overall AND faster than the growth of the economy.

So what can business do to stem the tide? “If you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old.” – Peter F. Drucker. Innovation applies not only to new processes and systems but to new ways of thinking that benefit both the culture of a business and its bottom line. The health of a business is intrinsically tied to the whole-person health of each of its members.

The trillion dollar model has been built on treating disease rather than supporting health, a fee for service model, and business in a parental role providing coverage with little employee participation.

The Shifting Tide

In recent years, companies have sought to engage employee self-responsibility by increasing employee financial contribution through higher deductibles and co-pays, getting an unintended result of less preventive care and greater use of the emergency room as a doctor’s office visit. New levels of benefit and culture innovation are being seen in a more collaborative model.

Savvy businesses are making it easier for employees to take more self-responsibility by providing education, programs and services that promote and enhance health in an environment that supports them to be used. A wellness-conscious culture supports greater employee commitment to individual well-being and greater awareness of the value being provided when the relationship is communicated and perceived as a team partnership.

Nutrition, exercise and even meditation programs, medical teleservices, facility-shared or on-site clinics with same day appointments are some examples of recent innovations that support smart health choices. Self-funding provides greater control and realized savings benefits from those programs for companies able to do so. These new solutions are helping to incrementally push the needle forward.

However, if we are to truly stem the ever-rising cost of healthcare and move toward more sustainable vibrant health, the next category where innovation is critical is musculoskeletal disorders (“MSDs”).

One in two — or 126.6 million — adults are affected by MSDs, according to the U. S. Bone and Joint Initiative: The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States (BMUS), Third Edition, 2014. Rosemont, IL. ( That’s twice the rate of those with chronic heart and lung conditions, and seven times the 18.8 million diagnosed with diabetes.

Consider the Impact of Musculoskeletal Injuries:

■77 percent (65.8 million) — Leading cause of all injury-related healthcare visits

■$176.9 billion — Annual cost of treatment (2011)

■397 million — Number of prescriptions filled for MSDs (2011)

■70 percent (216.5 million days) — Self-reported lost work days due to MSDs

■30 percent (284,000) of work-related injuries due to MSDs with an average of 11 lost work days.

In addressing the challenge of musculoskeletal disorders, an aging population, and an opioid addiction crisis estimated at $500 billion (2017), it makes sense to include a holistic, nondrug, self-care approach. Just as cardiovascular, respiratory and diabetic conditions are improved by focusing on nutrition and exercise, so too can many chronic musculoskeletal pain and mobility conditions be alleviated.

Empowering individuals with the knowledge to partner with the body/mind gives them the ability to release chronic pain and tension at the moment as well as release long-held chronic tension patterns to prevent injury and help prevent them from reoccurring. It also makes them better partners in their own healthcare. They know what they can do on their own and when they need to see a professional. The innovative shift is one from old-model conditioning that relief comes from outside the body (drugs or office visits) to one of working with the body and tapping into its built-in pain relief and self-healing system.

As business continues to innovate and integrate a more holistic model of health, culture, individual responsibility and team partnership, we expand our ability to more healthfully serve our clients and our society as a whole.

About the Author

Kathleen Gramzay, BCTMB, is a Speaker, Wellness Educator, and the Developer of Kinessage® Self Care. Through live and virtual training, Kinessage LLC serves wellness conscious businesses and individuals to live more productive, joyful lives. To find out more visit