How Data Can Help

Migraine Management Toolkit

When making a business case for any workplace intervention or program, collecting and analyzing data to support your case is a common strategy. However, this is challenging when looking at migraine.

The condition is underdiagnosed and undertreated and as such, many people suffering with migraine are not accounted for in most data sets. It is a condition that is also poorly understood by the general public, many employers and even health care professionals.

Because of this, migraine flies under the radar in most organizations and collecting data from traditional sources does not always tell the whole story.

Sources of Data for Migraine Prevalence and Costs

  • Demographic modeling
  • Health Risk Appraisal (HRA)
  • Screening questionnaires
  • Medical claims
  • Pharmacy claims
  • Disability claims (STD, LTD)
  • FMLA claims

Using Data

Gathering information from a variety of sources can help determine the extent of the problem in the workforce and the related financial impact and support a plan for a migraine program or intervention to manage/deal with the issue.

When trying to figure out the extent of the problem in an employee population, the following sources of information can be used:


Looking at the gender and age of your employee population is one way to get a good idea of migraine prevalence. What percent of the employee population is female and between the ages of 25 and 55? The answer to these questions can give you an idea of the likelihood that migraine is an issue that needs attention.

Try using a simple calculation to estimate the number of employees with migraines in your workforce:

  • Multiply number of male employees x 6% = number of men with migraines
  • Multiply number of female employees x 18% = number of women with migraines
  • Add the two = total number of employees with migraines in your workplace

Self-Reported Data

Using a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) or screening questionnaire can be an effective way to collect self-reported information about the health and well-being of an employee population. Most HRAs do not ask specific questions about migraines. If you use an HRA as part of a health improvement/wellness strategy, consider adding questions about migraines to the assessment. Here are a few examples:

  • Do you suffer from frequent headaches? What is the frequency?
  • What are your symptoms?
  • How severe are they?
  • What triggers a migraine?
  • Do you take medication for this?
  • Are you able to function at work when you have a headache? At home?
  • What is your quality of life?

If you don’t use an HRA, there are simple assessments, such as the Headache Impact Test from the National Headache Foundation, that might be useful.

Medical & Pharmacy Claims

Individuals suffering from migraine don’t always seek care or a diagnosis and others are misdiagnosed. Because of this, it can be difficult to quantify the problem using traditional medical and pharmacy claims review.

  • Medical claims: Migraines often show up as a secondary diagnosis or not at all; they can also be miscoded
  • Drug utilization: Many migraineurs are not taking prescription drugs so they won’t show up here; if you want to address the issue before drugs are prescribed, relying on drug utilization data will not help


In addition to health care costs incurred by those suffering from migraine, employers face rising costs related to reduced productivity as well. How do you quantify the cost of absenteeism and presenteeism? These measures of productivity are often not tracked. Using traditional measures, including short-term and long-term disability, will provide only a small part of the bigger picture – information on those who have been diagnosed and are using benefits. Many more migraineurs suffer in silence using sick time sporadically and functioning at reduced capacity while on the job.


Any data or information you collect can help in discovering the extent of migraines in an employee population and determining the best way to manage and deal with the issue. Using various sources, figure out what needs to be done structurally (related to benefit plan design changes, policies and practices review) and from a behavioral standpoint (prevention and management, workspace accommodation).