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    Secret Sauce for Healthy Return to Work

    • Published
    • 12 August 2022
    • Category
    • General

    The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) recently released two articles featuring employer and insurer  insights on post-injury return-to-work (RTW) programs. They agreed on the following RTW success factors:

    • Management commitment needs to be foundational within the employer’s culture. Communication of this commitment builds trust between employees and management.
    • Communication and setting clear expectations are key both before and after an injury occurs.
    • Involved medical providers must understand occupational injuries and RTW programs.
    • It is beneficial for a single source of contact at the workplace to coordinate the RTW program for the injured worker, insurer and medical providers.
    • The employer should create and maintain an inventory of light-duty or transitional tasks.

    The NCCI’s mission is to “foster a healthy workers’ compensation system.” It gathers data, analyzes industry trends, and provides objective insurance rate and loss cost recommendations. In reference to its research, the NCCI says “helping an injured employee recover and return to work safely is a fundamental component of a healthy workers’ compensation system.”

    Pre-Claim Perspective

    As an occupational health services provider, WorkCare agrees with the RTW success factors identified by employers and insurers and offers another perspective. Our clients encourage their employees to report work-related injuries, illnesses and physical discomfort at onset so we can initiate immediate clinical intervention – before a workers’ compensation claim is filed.

    We know from many years of experience operating a 24/7 telehealth contact center (Incident Intervention) that the majority of non-emergency work-related injuries can be appropriately self-managed with first aid and guidance from occupational physicians and nurses. In some cases, we refer the employee to a local clinic for further diagnosis and potential treatment, as clinically warranted. We also facilitate referral to a local provider when a work supervisor or injured employee requests an in-person visit.

    WorkCare’s occupational health practitioners are specialists who are familiar with workplace exposure hazards and commonly occurring conditions that often result in workers’ compensation claims and lost time. Whether an injury is self-managed or referred to a clinic, our clinicians follow best medical practices. We support safe return to work in some capacity (e.g., full or temporarily modified duty) because remaining at work promotes healing. Working affects quality of life in many ways – physically, financially, socially and psychologically. Not working often leads to absence, prolonged recovery and poorer outcomes.

    SPICE Model

    The parameters for successful RTW identified in the NCCI articles align with the SPICE model of care used by WorkCare clinicians. The SPICE model emphasizes:

    • Simplicity: Relatively benign conditions tend to escalate when they are labeled and treated in a complicated fashion. This is more likely to occur when treating providers do not have occupational medicine training or lack familiarity with workplace regulations, environments and exposure risks.
    • Proximity: Maintaining close ties to the workplace (i.e., commitment, communication, trust) enhances a worker’s physical and mental health during treatment and recovery.
    • Immediacy: Reporting at injury onset without fear of employment repercussions results in prompt care and paves the way for safe RTW. Stay-at-work and RTW programs are more successful when employees are encouraged to report work-related strain and sprains, minor cuts or burns, bruises, insect bites and similar complaints.
    • Centrality: We believe all involved parties benefit when they share the common goal of return to work as soon it is medically safe to do so. A contact person at the workplace who supports the use of functional job descriptions and modified and transitional positions, as needed, is a critical contributor.
    • Expectancy: We find individuals often fulfill the expectations that are placed on them. Employees tend to behave in certain ways depending on the information they receive from their employer before and after an injury occurs. Transparency and tone are important.

    Our approach is designed to deliver the “right care, at the right time, in the right setting” – never less care – and to help people safely remain at work, even with discomfort, so they can be productive while healing from an injury or illness.

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