Last year more than three million American employees experience a work-related injury. For employers this represented around $1 billion per week, in addition to the employees’ social costs. Aside from the financial loses, employees may also be face other disadvantages because of their injuries: if employees are off work for more than six months, they have less than a 50% chance of returning to the workforce. It is an imperative then to establish effective measures to aid employees return to work.
Instituting official return-to-work programs has proven a successful strategy in many private organizations. Firms with RTW programs are 1.4 times faster than those without one in returning the employee to work. That translates into about 3-4 weeks of a time difference. However, in spite of the advantages, not all firms –especially small ones –possess an established RTW program.
Even with an official RTW program in place, employers often face barriers to provide effective, immediate care. According to GEXEX Services, LLC, one of the nation’s largest providers of managed care services, these are the top five barriers return-to-work programs face:
1. Injured workers often aren’t directed to top performing providers Less than 20% of work-related injuries are treated by the best-performing doctors, as measured by outcome, medical efficiency and other criteria. In the long run, the financial and health advantages of providing quality mental care outweigh the immediate costs.
2. There’s little recognition or accommodations made for comorbidities, such as obesity and depression More than one third of U.S. adults are obese. In spite of the high prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other related illnesses, work-related programs have not effectively responded to the epidemic. Likewise, despite the fact that depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, many RTW programs frequently do not have a strong mental health component in place. GENEX reports that injured employees are 45% more likely to be treated for depression than their non-injured counterparts, suggesting that mental health requires particular attention in RTW programs.
Along with RTW programs, the company should institute obesity and depression prevention programs in the workforce that might help reduce the incidence of injuries related to these conditions.
3. Poor utilization of case management programs To facilitate the provision of care, RTW programs should have effective medical case managers, knowledgeable in both legal regulations and clinical processes. They should act as information exchanges between the employer and the treating providers. Frequently, the bureaucracy of case management slows down the process of returning to work.
4. Lack of formalized written return-to-work policy Since effective communication between employers and workers will facilitate the prompt return to work, RTW programs should have a written set of policies that details the desires and expectations of both parties. This is not often the case in many firms, slowing down the process once accidents and injuries take place.
5. Some employers are hesitant to embrace modified duty Once the injured worker returns to work, he might not be able to perform as many tasks as before, because of medical restrictions. However, many employers are unaware of these limitations, or unwilling to modify tasks. GENEX reports that even changes such as workstation setup or rescheduling working may reduce disability duration by 40%.
Injured workers are eager to return to work: 80-90% of injured workers prefer returning to work, rather collecting disability. It is the responsibility and benefit of employers to efficiently respond to worker injuries and speed the return-to-work process, so that both parties can start earning again.
To view the full release by GENEX, click here.
It is the responsibility of the employer to provide effective workers compensation and return-to-work measures in their businesses. If you or a loved one suffers an accident or injury while at work, we invite you to call our seasoned worker’s compensation attorneys today. You may be entitled to benefits, including payment of medical costs, lost wages, disability benefits, and other cash compensation based on the gravity of the injury, only redeemable through expert legal representation. With more than 50 years of experience, our Boston team of seasoned workers’ compensation attorneys can best help you retrieve your deserved reimbursement. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we are committed to best serve our clients’ legal needs. We are available anytime to answer any case questions, and will come to meet you at the convenience of your home or hospital stay. We take no fee unless successful. For your free initial consultation, please call our Boston offices today.