Work Loss, Healthcare Utilization, and Costs among US Employees with Chronic Pain
Laura T. Pizzi
Chureen T. Carter
Jamie B. Howell
Susan M. Vallow
Albert G. Crawford
Evan D. Frank
Background: Chronic pain in the workplace significantly affects individuals who experience a variety of conditions resulting in increased financial burden to their employers. The objective of this study was to determine the economic impact of chronic non-cancer pain by measuring the number and cost of days missed from work and the amount paid for healthcare related to chronic pain. Methods: Retrospective analysis of a sample of employees from the MEDSTAT Health and Productivity Management database, using absence data and short-term disability claims, as well as inpatient, outpatient, and pharmacy claims. Participants were employees from six large US corporations during 1997-1999 with full-time work status and claims totaling at least 90 days' supply of opioid medication and a medical visit with a diagnosis for a painful condition during the study period. Work loss was estimated by using location-specific wage rates to estimate the value of time missed from work in dollars ($US, 1998 values). Healthcare costs were calculated from the amount paid for the employees' claims for outpatient office visits, hospitalizations, and prescription medications. Results: 2459 employees met the inclusion criteria, of whom 1512 (61.5%) missed >=1 days of work during the 3-year study period. The total number of days lost because of both sickness absences and short-term disability claims was 331_242, worth an estimated $US39.4 million in wages during the 3-year period. Combined medical and pharmacy costs were $US4607 per employee per year for pain-related healthcare overall. The estimated total impact of chronic pain for each employer who contributed to the data set was approximately $US2.1 million per employer per year. Discussion: The findings demonstrate that employees with chronic pain experience frequent sickness absences and short-term disability days and consume a considerable amount of healthcare resources. Given the economic impact of chronic pain, employers and managed care organizations should evaluate the potential benefits in productivity resulting from workplace initiatives such as ergonomic modifications, rest breaks, or pain management programs.
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