Excess Insurer Helps Healthcare Clients Realize 'Significant Cost Savings'
According to the Midwest Employers Casualty Co., health care organizations lose operating revenue at an estimated rate of four to 10 times the direct costs of a work-related injury. With that in mind, MECC created a value-added service to help its health care clients reduce workplace injuries.
"Health care organizations are realizing that in order to provide quality patient care, they must first take care of their own staff, particularly those that deliver patient care," said Darrell Toenjes, MECC's healthcare practice leader.
MECC, a workers' comp excess insurance company, developed its Healthcare Risk Management Practice as a value-added service for its health care clients. Companies are able to monitor their results through a benchmarking component.
Toenjes works directly with clients to help them create safer environments which result in savings on workers' comp costs.
"The typical struggles are patient handling injuries, such as slips, trips and falls, and [injuries from] combative patients. Those tend to be the most severe causes of injuries," Toenjes said. "I think I'd tell clients if there's one thing they can do it should be to develop and implement a safe patient handling program."
Patient handling. Toenjes says patient handling injuries represent the majority of workers' comp costs for most health care organizations, especially acute care facilities such as hospitals. He and his team help health care organizations design and implement programs to reduce those injuries.
"What we're seeing is that the initial cost of the program -- adding staff, acquiring equipment, providing training -- is typically paid for within the first three years due to the reduction in injuries. It's a very quick return on investment," he said. "In fact, some organizations that implemented a comprehensive program were able to reduce patient handling injuries by 80 to 90 percent and in certain instances saved $1 million in the first year."
Addressing patient handling and movement injuries starts by identifying where an organization is in the process.
"I think most organizations realize they need to do something. Many don't know where to start, or they started and ran into obstacles," he says. "Many are already doing components of the program without realizing it."
From there, MECC helps health care organizations create their own programs by:
- Developing a safe patient handling team. After determining the most appropriate members, the team begins to oversee the development and implementation of safe patient handling policy and procedures.
- Acquisition of equipment. Toenjes helps determine what other equipment a health care facility might need. He then brings in vendors to provide proposals, for things such as floor-based equipment, portable transfer devices, and ceiling mounted patient lift systems.
- Creating a strategy for upper management. "I help develop a business case to present to their administration of why this program would benefit the organization, using a cost/benefit analysis," he said.
Transitional-duty, return-to-work program. For those workers who do experience injuries, "the number one thing to do is have an effective transitional-duty, return-to-work program," Toenjes said. "Getting employees back to work as quickly as possible saves costs both from a human perspective as well as a corporate financial perspective."
Where return-to-work programs are somewhat challenging for many companies, health care workers are somewhat unique. Creating temporary positions is one solution.
"Health care professionals have an abundance of transferable skills, particularly those who are most highly skilled like nurses. It's easier to create temporary positions because of this wide skill set," Toenjes said. "A nurse with restrictions may not be able to do bedside care but can use [her] clinical knowledge for medical records, infection control, medical case management. We help them look at it from a different perspective."
Tasks from three different jobs, for example, can be brought together to create a temporary position. Using transitional, as opposed to light-duty work, helps the injured employee transition back to the job he was doing before he was injured.
"The key is to communicate with those individuals that it is a temporary job," Toenjes said. "It's important not to establish the mind-set that it's a permanent job."
Maintaining constant communication with the injured worker is also key to a successful return-to-work process, Toenjes said.
"The relationship that an injured worker has with his supervisor is the most important factor in how quickly or if ever the worker returns to work," he said. "It is more important than the severity of the injury. For that reason, we encourage clients to have their supervisors maintain contact with their injured workers."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 4, 2011
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