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Our October 2021 Wellness Monthly was about how personal health literacy influences quality of life. Now industry observers report that poor health literacy is a barrier to return to work and full function for injured workers.
The degree to which Americans have the capacity to comprehend health information and make appropriate decisions is of particular concern in the workers’ compensation industry, according to Ron Skrocki, senior vice president of product management and development at Genex, an Enlyte company. Skrocki was a panelist during a recent National Comp webinar on Navigating What’s Next: Managing Claims in a Changing Comp Industry.
“Health information knowledge is not growing at a time when the complexities of health care and co-morbid medical conditions need greater understanding,” he said. “Misinformation is also a serious threat to public health,” which is not a new phenomenon.
Data show that populations at risk for low health care literacy include older employees, those in minority groups and people living in medically underserved areas. Meanwhile, treating physicians have a narrow window of opportunity to educate patients about how to take better care of themselves. Consequently, Skrocki advises employers to use risk models to help predict the “future weather” in advance of reading the “current temperature” of a workers’ compensation claim, and for case managers to make health literacy part of patient encounters.
At WorkCare, we consider every encounter with an employee, whether it is virtual or in person, to be an opportunity for education. We practice health literacy using phrases such as “care guidance” for injured workers, “coaching” for industrial athletes and “bio-ergonomic surveillance” to reduce injury risk for employees with physically demanding jobs.
We also promote the use of technology – including apps, online training programs and our secure client portal – to educate employees about wellness, including chronic disease prevention and management, mental health, nutrition and fitness, and the importance of compliance with treatment recommendations and return-to-work plans.
Equally as important, WorkCare clinicians spend time onsite developing rapport with employees. We know that the ability to become more health-literate depends to a considerable degree on the sources people use to obtain information. Sometimes a brick-by-brick approach is needed to build trust.
For example, we asked a WorkCare onsite nurse at a rural plant to reflect on her accomplishments in 2021. “What I am most proud of,” she said, “is getting integrated into the company and having people start to trust me. When they trust me, they come to me with questions and get better educated. When I ask where they get their information, they often mention Tik-Tok or Facebook. Once they get to know me and trust me, I am able to steer them toward other sources, give them facts, not opinion, and let them make up their own minds.”
No doubt this approach has ripple effects as employees pass evidence-based information on to others in their households and communities. While health literacy may begin at home, employers play a pivotal role by giving employees the information they need to make sound choices about their own health and well-being.
For more information on the WorkCare way, you can visit us at www.workcare.com.
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