Are Wearables Worth the Investment? 3 Critical Areas Where They’re Proving Their Worth
Employers are facing more administrative costs today than they have in recent memory.
A number of macroeconomic factors — labor shortages, inflation, an increased demand for benefits — are converging, resulting in increased financial strain for businesses. Employers are spending more on hiring, on incentives to help attract new talent and on their already-existing benefits packages.
Consider health care costs, for instance. By 2024, they’re expected to rise by 7% due to an increase in pharmaceutical costs and a push from providers who want better rates. In the past, employers might have passed these additional costs on to their employees, but with talent shortages still plaguing industries from manufacturing to nursing, many businesses are taking on these costs themselves.
“Employers are really being squeezed on all sides,” said Dorothy Riviere, chief clinical officer at Bardavon. “They prefer not to transfer the cost to existing employees, which may challenge retention, and they want to ensure employee benefit costs do not limit their ability to attract new talent.”
To manage these increased administrative costs, some employers are turning to injury prevention tools, like wearable technologies, that can decrease the number of musculoskeletal workers’ compensation claims they face each year. These tools can reduce administrative spend by reducing claims costs, improving employee morale and generally helping workers live healthier lives.
3 Areas Where Wearables Are Saving Employers Money
Injury prevention and workers’ compensation costs: One key way wearables and injury prevention solutions reduce costs for employers is through targeting musculoskeletal injuries, which are some of the most common and costly injuries in the industry.
“Musculoskeletal claims account for about 80% of workers’ compensation overall claim costs, because they are the expensive indemnity claims,” said Doug Dickerson, senior vice president of data strategy with Bardavon, citing market data.
These tools prevent injuries by detecting whether a worker is moving improperly or lifting too much, then alerting them so they can correct their behavior in real time. “Workers can now be empowered to take ownership of safety and prevention in a way that simply was not possible before,” Riviere said.
Since many musculoskeletal injuries are cumulative, any time a worker can correct their improper motions, it goes a long way in reducing injuries.
“We can identify when a person is experiencing high forces on their body and then immediately alert them to create safer movements,” Dickerson said. “You cannot avoid all musculoskeletal injuries, but because workers are moving in a safer manner, they are not repeatedly stressing their body as much. Therefore, injuries will be less severe, easier to recover from and less costly for employers.”
Employee retention: When employees feel like their companies are prioritizing safety, it can make them want to stay in their current jobs. Any firm can throw more money at talent; few can make workers truly believe the company has their best interests at heart.
“Safety culture can be thought of as one of those perks, and an important one. Making the workers feel safe and valued at work is imperative to their retention,” Dickerson said.
“Nobody wants to feel like they are in danger when they are working. We believe that the right technology can make workers understand how to perform their jobs safely and preserve their physical and mental wellbeing.”
These tools also have a bit of a wow factor, Dickerson says, which can appeal to workers if risk managers present it correctly. If you tell workers they need to implement new safety technologies, they might feel suspicious. If you tell them that some of these same tools are used by athletes, including Super Bowl champions and Olympians, they will feel intrigued by the cool new technology.
“These are things that have been used for decades supporting professional athletes,” Dickerson said. “If you communicate this correctly, the workers are often excited to gain access to this technology. They feel privileged and feel like their employers care.”
Managing commercial health care costs: When an employee is not suffering fatigue, soreness or injury at work, they will feel happier and healthier in other parts of their lives. That may not have a direct impact on workers’ compensation costs, but it could affect an employer’s group health plan — and, as Dickerson says, “it all comes out of the same pocketbook.”
“Improving how a worker moves can extend beyond the workplace,” he said. “We want them to feel like they have the energy to play soccer with their kids after work. It can impact the overall wellness of the workforce, and that’s going to have positive mental health benefits. From a dollars and cents perspective, with a healthier workforce at work and at home, we can impact the overall health costs.”
How to Evaluate Wearables and Other Injury Prevention Technologies
It’s clear that wearables and other injury prevention technologies have a number of benefits. But for any of these tools to work, business leaders need to select technologies that are the best fit for their company.
When evaluating wearables and other injury prevention tools, there are five criteria they should consider: independent verification of the technology, workplace injury trends, employee acceptance, identification of at-risk workers, and whether the technology can be tested in their workplace prior to a significant purchase or commitment.
Let’s start with the first criterion. Wearables vendors often make a lot of claims about what their product can do, but if those claims haven’t been verified by a third party, can an employer really trust them? Seeking out vendors that have their technology reviewed by outside organizations can give risk managers peace of mind. They know these tools will work.
Once an employer confirms a tool has been independently verified, they will want to make sure the technology is targeted toward preventing injuries that the firm commonly experiences. “If most of your MSK injuries are knees, does this focus on knees? If it’s shoulders, does it focus on shoulders? There needs to be an overlap between what the technology can help prevent and the types of injuries employers see,” Dickerson said.
Ensuring that the wearables are targeted toward specific injuries can help convince employees that these tools are really for injury prevention and are not being used to spy on them. That brings us to the third category: Employee buy-in is essential to implementing wearables and other injury prevention tools. Employers should evaluate what types of data these technologies are collecting and communicate to employees that they are not monitoring anything except workplace safety.
The final two categories are determining whether the tool identifies at-risk employees and testing the technology in their specific workplace. Both assessment categories allow employers to determine if these tools will be effective and if they are tailored to an employer’s specific environment. “Before you make a commitment, I think employers should be able to pilot new technology,” Dickerson said.
Even if employers evaluate all these categories, no technology will be successful without leadership buy-in. “If you are going to put a technology in place, you must have engagement at the executive and management level. There must be a safety culture focus for any technology to produce results,” Riviere said.
“If leadership has buy-in and makes prevention a strategic focus, that will impact the organization down to the workers. If there is no management buy-in or safety culture focus, every technology will fail.”
An Empathetic, Human Support
Employers seeking to implement injury prevention technologies need to select the right vendor partner — one who is willing to tailor its services to meet the company’s needs.
An empathetic, human approach is central to Bardavon’s business model. The company understands that every worker moves in a different way and every job has different demands, so it takes time to learn about its partners and their needs.
“You cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach in prevention,” Riviere said. “All injured workers do not experience the same recovery process, and the same is true for how to help people avoid or correct stressful movements at work.”
Bardavon’s tools are comfortable and easy to use. The firm is transparent about what kinds of data it collects, allowing workers to feel more comfortable with the technology.
“We are transparent with workers about what data we are collecting, and what data we are not collecting,” Riviere said. “The implementation is simple. The sensors do not get in the way of the workers or the job they are performing and are comfortable to wear.”
The company’s analytics team helps employers analyze the return on investment for their wearables. Bardavon does not just sell businesses a product and walk away. It helps support its clients as they implement their tools. In addition to its technology, it offers on-site injury prevention support through its athletic trainers or empowers existing on-site teams if they are already in place.
“We are really one of the only injury prevention solutions that pairs technology personalized to the job, the employee and the safety team with connected care management,” Riviere said. “We ensure optimization before injury, and quality of care if an injury does occur.”
To learn more, visit: https://www.bardavon.com/solutions/injury-prevention-2/.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Bardavon Health Innovations. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.