March 8, 2021

New Virtual Health Benefits Expand Support for Portico Members

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Portico has sought to support members by listening, adapting, and offering benefits aimed to care for their changing needs. Virtual options allow ELCA-Primary health benefit members to use text-based primary care, telehealth visits, online mental health programs, and an online educational wellness platform from the safety of their homes. Now, Portico is introducing two new innovative benefits, BurnAlong and SWORD, carefully selected to ensure members have convenient and cost-effective alternatives to in-person care when they need it. BurnAlong and SWORD are both proven to deliver results for participants and have the potential to offer savings for the ELCA community by improving members’ health today to help prevent costly health care needs in the future.

  • BurnAlong is a virtual health and fitness platform offering thousands of classes ranging from traditional and adaptive fitness classes to nutrition and stress management. As more people are turning to at-home fitness routines to stay well, BurnAlong fosters a community environment where members can enjoy live or on-demand virtual classes with their friends and family remotely. They can even invite up to four family members or friends that are not on the plan to create their own free sub-account, so they always have their favorite workout partner keeping them motivated. BurnAlong can be accessed from a smartphone, tablet, computer or laptop, and smart TV and is available to all ELCA-Primary health benefit members at no additional cost.
  • SWORD is a virtual therapy program for members aged 18 and up experiencing musculoskeletal pain in most major joints including the back, shoulder, neck, knee, elbow, hip, ankle, and wrist. SWORD covers physical therapy needs from prevention, to treating acute injuries and chronic pain, through post-surgical recovery. Adult ELCA-Primary health benefit members interested in SWORD will complete a brief questionnaire before starting the program to ensure that it can best treat their specific musculoskeletal needs. They are then matched with a licensed physical therapist who will design a custom treatment program. Participants complete their program at home, guided by an easy-to-use tablet and electronic motion sensors, with education and coaching from their physical therapist. Adult ELCA-Primary health benefit members can access SWORD at no additional cost.

New Programs Aim to Improve Well-Being, Control Costs

Over the last 3 years, claims for musculoskeletal issues having been trending upward among Portico’s ELCA-Primary health benefit members. However, members may have avoided seeking needed in-person treatment during 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Josh Smith, senior director of products at Portico, saw this as a strong case for the inclusion of a virtual musculoskeletal benefit. “Data from our medical claims indicates that members have been deferring medical care during the pandemic. According to research conducted by SWORD, their virtual program is proven to work better than traditional, in-person physical therapy and may reduce participant’s pain by up to 70%.”

Less pain isn’t the only gain: The potential for financial savings is another feature of SWORD’s program. Not only will ELCA-Primary health benefit members pay no out-of-pocket costs for SWORD, but SWORD’s research has shown that completion of the program reduces surgery intent by 64% in its participants. SWORD averages a cost savings of 34% for health plans by reducing the need for surgery and other expensive and invasive interventions.

It’s not all numbers and statistics, though. “We know that pain can have a huge impact on your overall sense of well-being. Giving members the ability to take back control and pursue relief from pain or enhance their physical health has the possibility of paying emotional dividends, too,” said Smith.

While virtual therapy for pain meets a specific need, the new virtual health and fitness program from BurnAlong should have something of interest for everyone. Portico’s previous fitness center discount benefit, discontinued in Dec. 2020, was only utilized by around 2% of all eligible members even before COVID restrictions hit. As there was limited participation in the program among gyms and fitness centers nationwide, members living in rural locations were often without easy access to a gym. With members using BurnAlong now able to work out from anywhere, Smith sees the possibility for the program to increase the number of physically active ELCA-Primary health benefit members: “For those who self-describe as struggling with their health, BurnAlong reports 68% more engagement when compared to other traditional fitness programs, and four times the engagement of other virtual fitness programs due to its unique community aspect.”

Smith feels strongly that the addition of these two new programs will benefit all ELCA-Primary members, not just those who utilize them. “It’s not a matter of choosing between cost and quality when it comes to these programs; we carefully selected them because of their potential to improve personal outcomes for some members, while at the same time, reducing future claims costs to help keep our plan affordable for all members.”

Continuing a Commitment to Personalized Support

Since 2008, Portico has provided ELCA-Primary health benefit members with wellness-focused, industry-leading benefits, services, and resources. In 2017, Portico refined its strategy, choosing to seek out programs designed to give members more personalized support. Now, in our current environment and beyond, virtual benefits like BurnAlong and SWORD aim to keep members safe and improve their well-being, all while controlling costs for the ELCA community.

Members eligible for these programs will receive invitations via email from BurnAlong and SWORD Health in the next few weeks. ELCA-Primary health benefit members can learn more about these — and all their benefits — online at myPortico.