In the workers’ comp world, we’ve seen the consequences of addiction and substance abuse affect the lives of injured workers and their families. That’s why we’re teaming up with WEconnect Recovery to create a series of articles that dive into the impact of this problem and solutions brought about by technology. This is part two of three installments. You can find our first article here


By Murphy Jensen, co-founder and EVP of Corporate Development of WEconnect Recovery and Paul Binsfeld, president and founder of Company Nurse, LLC


The opioid epidemic: an issue on the mind of almost every American. And while opioids are responsible for millions of cases of substance abuse, they’re not the only culprits. Whether with opioids, alcoholism, or other drug addictions, a reported 26.6% of Americans will experience a substance use disorder in their lifetime.

Rampant throughout the public, this disorder does not discriminate. Chances are, you know someone struggling with substance abuse.

Which means you understand that those with substance use disorder aren’t the only ones who are suffering. Addiction hurts their families, their friends; anyone who cares about them and must see them struggle. Nearly half of our nation is affected by addiction.

And it’s not just individuals who are affected by this crisis. Organizations, like employers and insurance companies, aren’t exempt.

With employees and insureds struggling with addiction, these organizations are finding that they must confront the reality of this growing epidemic and do anything in their power to fight it.


What Employers Need to Know

The economic impact of substance use disorder is an estimated $442 billion a year. And because 75% of adults with this disorder are members of the workforce, employers are left to bear much of these costs.

In fact, employees who abuse pain medication cost employers three times the health care costs of the average worker.

But the extra healthcare bills aren’t the only reason employers are facing high costs.

Substance abuse hinders workplace productivity. Employees with substance use disorders miss 50% more work days (up to six weeks a year) than their coworkers.

The financial impact of this? Each employee who abuses pain medication costs employers $2,500 in missed work.

By providing workers with recovery solutions, employers can protect both their bottom lines and their employees.


Impacting the Insurance Industry

And, of course, with employers (insurance carriers) facing the costs of substance use disorders, so are the insurance companies.

The cost to insurance companies (both public and private) for just prescription painkiller abuse is an estimated $72.5 billion a year. This includes medical and prescription costs as well as diversion (patients selling their medication).

For alcohol abuse, over 30% of those who received treatment for alcoholism in 2011 reported using public or private health insurance to cover their costs.

Yes, insurance companies have taken steps to reduce substance abuse. Several have even addressed the opioid epidemic with stricter prescription guidelines.

While preventative measures can help, the issue persists. And those in recovery stand to relapse.

But if insurance companies can work with employers to offer their insureds proven recovery solutions, they can more adequately address the problem that they are striving to solve.


Becoming a Part of the Solution

So, how can employers and insurance companies help those with addiction successfully recover?

Solutions based in innovative technology have emerged to improve chances of recovery. One solution that has proven to be effective: WEconnect recovery.

The WEconnect platform has two components, a mobile app and a data dashboard. The app is provided to patients after leaving a variety of treatment modalities and allows for direct communication with counselors, family and friends, peers in recovery, and 12-step support group sponsors daily. The app also keeps the individuals accountable for their treatment plan activities and supports them with positive messaging and wellness rewards.

The data dashboard obtains in real-time signals about the patients’ well-being and treatment adherence allowing the clinicians to intervene and publish verified outcomes data to improve treatment. These signals are produced by a combination of factors, including a patent-pending relapse risk score algorithm.

This platform allows for patients in recovery to stay in recovery.

By providing their insureds and employees with a real solution for recovery, employers and insurance companies won’t just save money — they’ll save lives.


Stay tuned for our final installment of this series in which we discuss the WEconnect platform, its future, and other emerging technologies.

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