Study: Medical best practices equal fewer lost work days, lower costs
"Owing to important disability prevention capacity, workers' compensation health care may be especially fertile ground for continued quality improvement innovation."
Researchers looked at workers' comp claims in the Washington state system to determine the effectiveness of a quality improvement intervention that encourages adoption of medical best practices. It showed that improving medical care for injured workers can dramatically reduce lost work time.
Specifically, the researchers found the best practices resulted in:
- 19.7 percent fewer disability days.
- $510 average per claim savings in total disability and medical costs.
- 29.5 percent reduction in disability days for workers suffering from a back strain.
The study was published in the American Public Health Association journal Medical Care. Researchers from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries, the College of Public Health at Ohio State University, and the University of Washington's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences analyzed more than 100,000 workers' comp claims filed from July 2001 through June 2007.
They compared the claims of injured workers treated through L&I's Centers of Occupational Health and Education with claims from injured workers who were not part of the COHEs.
Washington state created the community-based COHEs several years ago to work with medical providers to encourage the best ways to treat injured workers, with a particular focus on the first 12 weeks after a work-related injury. The best practices are aimed at providing the safe, healthy return of injured workers to full function and full employment.
Examples of the best practices include promptly filing the workers' comp claim, phoning the employer to talk about the worker's ability to return to work or a light-duty job, and regularly assessing a worker's ability to do work activities.
L&I gives medical providers in the COHE financial incentives and organizational support to foster expedited return to work. Health services coordinators report to the health care delivery team and assist with communitywide integration of care.
There are four COHE sites serving 2,000 providers. Legislation enacted recently will expand access to COHEs to all injured workers in the state by 2015.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
December 22, 2011
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