Study: Aches cost health care employers hundreds per month, per employee
Researchers writing in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine surveyed hundreds of occupational and physical therapists across the country to determine the effects of work-related MSDs on presenteeism. They concluded that each therapist with moderate MSD cost between $278 and $303 per month in lost productivity.
"WMSD were associated with substantial impairments in presenteeism," the report says. "Work output was reduced by about 5 percent in therapists with moderate WMSD compared to therapists with minor WMSD, and work impairment was reduced by about 5 percent to 7 percent in therapists with moderate WMSD compared to those with minor WMSD."
There are an estimated 185,000 PT positions and 104,500 OT jobs throughout the country, and the numbers are expected to increase dramatically in the next 20 years. "As employers are likely to find attracting and retaining these professionals difficult, their employees will need to maximize productivity," the research said. No studies have specifically examined the effect of work-related pain on presenteeism among OTs and PTs.
The researchers sent questionnaires to more than 700 OTs and PTs with work-related MSDs. Depending on their answers, the therapists were identified as having either minor or moderate MSDs.
To determine the level of presenteeism, the authors used the Stanford Presenteeism Scale. It resulted in two scores -- the work output score and the work impairment score. Where WOS was identified as the amount of work, WIS was a more detailed measure of productivity, or quality of the work. A higher WIS score translated to higher impairment or lower productivity.
"Therapists with WMSD continue to work and continue to treat all of their patients. They, therefore, consider themselves to be fully productive," the report says. "However, WMSD do impact the way that therapists treat patients and lost productivity may be reflected in more subtle ways."
The OTs and PTs with moderate WMSD provided less direct patient care each week. They reported favoring certain treatment activities over other, more strenuous activities such as transfers, and in some cases avoided strenuous procedures and techniques altogether.
The researchers calculated the estimated cost of the lost productivity by taking the average salaries of OTs and PTs and determining the monthly loss based on the average WIS compared to 100 percent presenteeism. For OTs, the figure was $1,279, which the researchers concluded was likely not accurate.
"Most workers are unlikely to be fully productive at all times with or without pain," they said. "A more instructive calculation may come from the comparison between therapists with minor WMSD and therapists with moderate WMSD. If the more conservative work output measures are used, the difference between those therapists would represent a monthly cost of $278 for OT and $303 for PT per employee with moderate WMSD."
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January 9, 2012
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