Early Intervention Vs. Latent Discontent
By MATTHEW BRODSKY, senior editor/Web editor
It is only Wednesday morning in Vegas at the NWCDC, but themes are beginning to flow through the sessions here. Two of them flowed through the session on Early Intervention Strategies to Reduce Your Workers' Comp Costs (CM1-A).
The first: Do not wait on a possible workers' comp claim to save money later versus spending more on medical care immediately after a work-related injury. As speaker Aislinn Matthews-Grant, a nurse case manager with the U.S. Postal Service out of Albuquerque, cited, 25 percent more claims close within one year or less when early intervention strategies are used.
"Time is the most important thing when it comes to diagnosing the claim," she said.
Matthews-Grant's words echoed much of what noted comp expert Richard Pimentel had to say during his preconference session on Tuesday. Pimentel described how, as a consultant, he'd once demanded that healthcare providers give so much quality and immediate care to the injured employees of one client so that medical costs would go up in the first three months of his new plan. Make those costs go up or else I'll audit you, he told the providers.
Then, once the effects of quality and immediate care took root, Pimentel's client saw steady and significant decreases in medical care costs.
One of Matthews-Grant's strategies for early intervention is to work with multiple healthcare providers. Having more options (and clinics) for injured employees could lead to employees getting care quicker. For instance, managers could send employees to one clinic if they know another is more crowded. Workers could get care in 15 minutes rather than a week later. Such a policy also allows workers to feel more control over their medical care.
Another of the common themes emerging at NWCDC: the antagonistic attitude of some employers to injured workers. Employers with excuses like: Bringing employees back to work could lower the morale of other employees. Or there is no work available for these employees to come back to.
Or how about employers who use return-to-work as a means to demean an employee?
"Early return-to-work is not to be used as a punishment," Matthews-Grant said. As for any lame excuse or negativity from employers, she added, "That's not appropriate."
There is always some form of productive work available as a modified assignment for injured employees, she said.
Perhaps. But then is the reluctance, even disdain, that some employers, managers and supervisors feel toward injured workers just a holdover from the 20th century, soon to be gone when baby boomers begin to retire and take antiquated beliefs with them? Is it just a matter of indifference, laziness even, when it comes to the added effort needed to deal with return-to-work employees? Or have workers' comp and disability professionals failed to win their battles? Or have they won some battles but are losing the war?
(Read our write-up and commentary
on other Wednesday sessions at the NWCDC.)
November 19, 2008
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