“Despite being such a prevalent disease, with 1 person in 7 being affected, migraine is vastly underdiagnosed, undertreated, and stigmatized,” explains Leonhard Schaetz, MS. “While researching migraine, our company observed that this disease impacts a large portion of our own employees’ professional and private lives. Despite the substantial need for improved disease management, to our knowledge, there were no direct support programs existing for migraine.”

Educating People With Migraine & Their Workplace

For a paper published in Headache, Schaetz and colleagues conducted a non‐interventional cohort study, which followed employees and their family members for 9 months. Participants received one telemedicine consultation to determine migraine diagnosis or a high probability of having migraine and six sessions of individualized telecoaching from a specialized nurse via a smartphone application. Participants were evaluated during the program and at 3 months after completion through a series of validated questionnaires, including Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS), Patient Activation Measure (PAM), and a satisfaction inquiry. A cost analysis was also performed to determine the economic benefit of the program.

“The primary endpoint was to assess if this employer-sponsored program led to a reduction in overall migraine disease burden among participants,” Schaetz says. “Secondly, we wanted to determine whether the program led to an increase in PAM levels within the employee population.” The “migraine care” program, he explains, has two main goals:

  1. Educate the entire workforce about migraine to help overcome stigma and increase awareness.
  2. Help employees living with migraine gain knowledge about their disease, improve disease management, and decrease disability.

Combining Technology With Personal Coaching

A cost analysis of the program revealed that, on average, participants gained 10.8 working days/year that were previously lost due to migraine, resulting in a positive ROI of 490%, indicating a higher magnitude of savings that could be achieved by the implementation of such a program. In addition to ROI and work productivity gained, participants gained an average 13.6 migraine‐free days/year in their private and social lives.

“This study highlights a successful migraine management program that combines the digital element of a smartphone application with the human element of individual coaching,” Schaetz explains. “The use of a smartphone app proved practicable, since most patients have it at hand every day. Personal coaching was vital for the success of the program, since many participants had previously given up disease management after many years of living with migraine that was not optimally treated.”

Migraine coaches were able to send relevant disease education “modules” to participants through the smartphone app, Schaetz notes. “The most-used modules related to relaxation/sleep, nutrition, disease education, hydration, and stress management,” he adds, “which shows the importance of taking a holistic approach to disease management, leveraging lifestyle and medical options to empower patients to achieve their personal best” (Figure).

Widespread Program Adoption

Due to the success of this migraine management program in lowering disease burden, Schaetz says the company is openly sharing all materials and experiences pertaining to the program for free with other interested employers. “This could be an opportunity for occupational health physicians and well-being program providers to adopt it as an innovative and effective health initiative at low cost. For physicians who are consulted by people living with migraine, we emphasize the usefulness of smartphone applications to self-monitor and to support discussions with a physician. This can help jointly identify the right combination of medical therapy and synergistic lifestyle changes.”

Schaetz and colleagues encourage the implementation of corporate migraine management programs. “An effective corporate health program can reduce the disease burden of patients with migraine and simultaneously be profitable for the employer,” he says. “Such programs are clearly wins for the employer, the associates, and ultimately, society.”