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IHPM/Employer Focus: Intel Explores Manual Therapies as an Onsite Musculoskeletal Pain Solution PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

IHPM/Employer Focus: Intel Explores Manual Therapies as an Onsite Musculoskeletal Pain Solution

Summary: Why would an employer want to explore a complementary therapy? How might a pilot project be established? This article describes a relationship between microprocessor giant Intel, researchers looking for onsite solutions to low-back pain at the Institute for Health and Productivity Management (IHPM), and the Dorn Companies, which hires licensed massage therapist to supply a Rolfing-based manual therapy to employees. Outcomes of this pilot project will be reported at the IHPM's fall conference in Scottsdale, October  15-17, 2008.
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massage, corporate health, cost savings, Rolfing, health and productivity management
Intel - exploring a new approach to employee satisfaction and cost-savings
When Rick Nevins, MD, chief research officer for the Institute for Health and Productivity Management (IHPM), went searching for what might potentially be a breakthrough onsite approach to musculoskeletal pain, he encountered a program developed by a trained Rolfer which uses licensed massage therapists.

IHPM, an Integrator sponsor, contacted, Intel, one of their key member of their Business Leadership Council, to see if they might be interested in a pilot porject on the program. This is the story of how that relationship began. A future Integrator article will look at outcomes-based strategy through which Del Dorn, the Rolfer noted above, has brought Trauma Release Therapy into the employer arena via the Dorn Companies.
Outcomes of the IHPM-Intel manual therapies pilot project will be presented at IHPM’s Eighth Annual International Conference in Scottsdale, October 15-17, 2008.

Intel Explores Manual Therapies as an Onsite Musculoskeletal Pain Solution

Note: This article was developed for the August 2008 issue of
IHPM's Health and Productivity Management.

Rick Nevins, MD - IHPM's chief research officer
The importance of musculoskeletal pain as a major cost driver -- of presenteeism, absenteeism and workers compensation -- places it near the top of the employer agenda for reducing total costs associated with employee health issues. Recognizing the importance of this problem, the Institute for Health and Productivity Management (IHPM) is seeking solutions -- leading to an exceptional onsite pilot project that might point the way to significant benefits for employers and their employees.

Rick Nevins, MD, IHPM’s chief research officer and leader on the project, was not satisfied with the outcomes of IHPM’s early investigation of onsite programs for treating pain, and began searching for alternative approaches – such as a hands-on therapy, delivered in the workplace.

Dr. Nevins and IHPM co-founder Sean Sullivan recalled an article in IHPM’s Journal of Health & Productivity (Vol. 2, No. 1, April 2007) which reported outcomes of a pilot using a treatment called Trauma Release Therapy (TRT). The authors reported significant reductions in costs of presenteeism in employees of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD).


Data Supporting a Pilot: Journal of Health & Productivity Article on TRT



University of California San Diego



241administrative employees



Early intervention manual therapy treatment in reducing costs and employee presenteeism due to pain

Key tool


Modified Work Limitations Questionnaire




Mean cost/employee reduced from $3846 to $2087, a 46% decrease



292% due to productivity gains

Schmidt J, Schweback RG. Preliminary Trial on the Effectiveness of Early Intervention
Manual Therapy in Reducing Costs of Presenteeism Due to Musculoskeletal Pain.
Journal of Health & Productivity; Vol 2, Number 1; April 2007.


Sue Adams, RN, BA, COHN-S - Intel's Global Health & Wellbeing Manager
TRT is performed onsite by specially trained massage therapists. It is a deep tissue treatment based on a practice called Rolfing, and offered in a series of 30 minute sessions. The Dorn Companies, which developed the therapy originally in the workers compensation environment, was the vendor in the UCSD pilot. Sullivan knew representatives of the firm had been attending IHPM events. The firm’s routine practice of gathering outcomes data with their clients suggested they might be a good partner for a pilot project.

IHPM approached Intel, a key member of its Business Leadership Council, as a possible site. Sue Adams, RN, BA, COHN-S, Global Health & Wellbeing Manager for Intel, explained that the pilot “seemed a pretty good match” with Intel’s health and productivity strategy. The firm’s worksite record “always ranks among the most safe” among all semiconductor businesses. Intel’s outcomes are due to diligence in workplace engineering, education of individual employees on ergonomic improvements, and reviewing and engaging best practices identified by others.  It also has added such benefits as onsite massage therapy, paid for by the employees, where employees have requested the service.

Recent performance, however, “has been flat,” according to Intel's Corporate Ergonomist, and pilot coordinator John Schaab. Some 42%-45% of serious injuries at the firm continue to be related to musculoskeletal issues. Says Schaab: “This partnership with IHPM is joining with our current wellness efforts that target reduction in musculoskeletal disease.”Adams clarifies: “Focus on prevention is #1 for us. Early reporting is our second focus. The third element is treatment.”

CAm, integrative medicine, employers, onsite
IHPM - taking the lead in the exploration
Engaging the manual therapies in the IHPM-Dorn pilot was viewed as potentially offering employees both an inducement for early reporting as well as an onsite solution. Adds Schaab: “We think the program may be an incentive to get people in earlier so we can avoid serious injuries, and gain step function improvement and improve employee quality of life.” A particular benefit of working with Dorn is that the TRT intervention can be treated as first aid and therefore falls outside of OSHA injury reporting requirements.

The pilot, which will involve 250 employees, began in April 2008 and runs through July 2008. Participants will receive four treatments, each a week apart. Employees come to a room which was set aside for treatments by a group of therapists trained in the procedure by Dorn. IHPM’s Nevins notes that outcomes measures include self reports together with Intel’s internal data related to such things as pain relief, time off work, use of medications, new injuries, and other medical costs. A presenteeism measure is included. States Schaab: “IHPM developed the measurement tool, but some changes were made to make the questions fit our work environment.”

Vendor of the manual therapy
Intel’s decision to engage the pilot with IHPM followed “a lot of homework,” according to Adams. Dorn’s prior clients were contacted. The program was benchmarked with other manual therapy approaches. Intel’s medical director was involved in the decision.

While no data had been analyzed as of this writing, Schaab notes that the “word of mouth has been positive” from the first group of participants. Speculation on potential expansion if outcomes are positive is premature. “After any pilot we do a thorough analysis of how to fund it, what the ROI would be.” Adds Schaab: “We’re a data-driven company.”

Del Dorn, the experienced Rolfer who developed the TRT, suggests that if Dorn’s past experience holds true, Intel’s evaluation of the program may be factoring in some additional qualitative outcomes as well as the pilot’s hard data. Says Dorn; “We sell almost 100% of our customers on money, data, savings and numbers. Yet when we go back in and ask how it’s going, they tell us, ‘you know, our employees love this, it generates a huge amount of buzz, it’s a water-cooler topic.” 

Attendees at the October 2008 IHPM Eighth Annual International Conference will learn to what extent the promise of positive quantitative and qualitative outcomes will have been realized by this pilot with semiconductor leader, Intel.

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