Health care group spends $4 million on safety, saves $14 million
In 1997, Integris had more than 900 workers' comp claims. As of this year, the frequency rate is around 300. The program involved input from employees, a dedicated return-to-work focus, constant communication with injured workers, and promoting accountability by each individual department/business unit. The $4 million investment included purchased equipment and devices designed by Integris.
"First do no harm. But what about our own employees?" That was the question senior managers asked when they embarked on the effort to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses.
Integris employs more than 9,000 permanent workers at its 13 acute care hospitals, 69 physician clinics, and four other facilities throughout Oklahoma. Like all health care entities, it was facing exposures to bloodborne pathogens, hepatitis B and C, and HIV, as well as injuries due to lifting, transferring and repositioning patients.
"We interviewed employees who had been hurt. It was amazing what we found," said William R. Wandel, Integris vice president. "Employees said 'if we only had this. If we only had that.' They gave us solutions."
The implementation of a no-lift policy was first on the agenda, along with acquisition of products to handle lifting and transferring. "The back injuries were reduced by one-half after the introduction of the equipment and the no-lift policy," Wandel said. "The effort by the disability management staff training and monitoring the use of the equipment has been key to this transition."
Also crucial to the effort to reduce workers' comp claims was the RTW program, especially communication with injured workers. "If someone goes out on workers' comp, it's like they moved to Mars," Wandel said. "But if they are sick or their wife passes away, we call them."
Along with communicating with the injured worker is an agreement signed by the employee and supervisor underscoring the light-duty requirements outlined by the physician. A vocational specialist maintains constant communication with the injured worker and his supervisor to assure the return to physically appropriate light-duty work.
If the home department does not accept the employee back for light duty, the worker is offered to other departments and charges are applied to the home department. Additionally, data is entered into a budget allocation model to assist in the appropriate reward/recognition of those departments that have underscored safe work habits.
The effect of the 10-year effort includes:
- Medical cost decrease. Overall medical costs from 1998 to 2008 were relatively unchanged although down slightly despite an average medical inflation rate of 8.4 percent, according to NCCI.
- Lower costs for total direct losses. As of August 2008, they had dropped $14 million.
- Frequency reduction. There have been 35 percent fewer claims.
- Severity decrease. The average claim cost has dropped 21 percent.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 14, 2010
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