Cost-Effective Strategies When Your Employee is on L and I
Ironically, the biggest driver of costs associated with work injury claims often is not the actual health care rendered to the injured worker, but rather the amount of time-loss wages paid to the worker themselves. And, for us employers, this usually translates to the ever-dreaded premium hike. So what’s a cash-strapped employer to do when one of his workers is stricken with a debilitating work injury?
At the risk of oversimplifying things, the answer is to do what you can to get your employee working again.
The State of Washington Department of Labor and Industries has found through analysis of their claims that the longer a worker is taken off work due to an injury, the harder it is for them to return to work. In their Attending Doctor’s Handbook, they state that studies show “injured workers recover more quickly and with less impairment when they return to work as soon as possible after an injury.” Furthermore, the Department continues, “they are less likely to become treatment dependent and more likely to feel valued and self-confident.”
As an employer, don’t be afraid to extend an olive branch to your employee’s doctor. Work as a team to find ways to return your employee back to the work environment as soon as it is safe. Oftentimes this may mean temporarily being flexible, and sometimes creative, to find ways of reducing the demands of their current job tasks, and/or finding alternative jobs they can do, as they continue to receive treatment for their injury.
The second thing that you can do as an employer is to encourage your employee to seek out the most effective forms of care for their condition. When it comes to neck and back injuries, chiropractic has a track record of getting patients back to work quicker than its medical counterpart. Here are three of the many classic studies that are out there:
In the Journal of Occupational Medicine (1991), medical management was compared to chiropractic management of back injury claims occurring in Utah with identical diagnostic codes. Compensation for time-loss for the chiropractic group was $68.38. The medical group, however — which did not include surgical cases — cashed in quite a bit higher at $668.39. In addition, the number of work days lost under the medical group was nearly ten times higher than the chiropractic group.
A workers’ compensation study in the Chiropractic Journal of Australia (1992) evaluated nearly 2000 cases of work-related low back pain and compared chiropractic and medical management. They found that on average the cost of time-loss paid to the worker were $392 for the chiropractic group versus $1569 for the medical group (four times greater). The number of work days lost because of injury averaged 6.26 days for the chiropractic group and 25.56 days for the medical group.
Finally, in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (1991) an Oregon workers’ compensation study was reported. This study, like the ones above, compared medical management and chiropractic management for disabling low back pain. They found that chiropractic patients had a higher frequency of returning to work in one week or less versus the medical patients which tended to stay off work longer. Interestingly, patients who reported a history of chronic lower back pain prior to the work injury had a median
time-loss of 34.5 days for the medical group but only 9 days for the chiropractic group.
Naturally, the biggest thing that you can do as an employer is to take a proactive approach to reduce injuries from occurring in the first place by targeting areas of risk. But when injuries do occur, it is important that you help see your employee through a speedy recovery. And, as the State of Washington Department of Labor and Industries has learned, “the best ‘medicine’ for them is to return to work as soon and as safely as possible.”
Source used for this article:
Ebrall. Mechanical low-back pain: a comparison of medical and chiropractic management within the victorian workcare scheme. Chiropractic Journal of Australia. 22(2): 47-53. 1992.
Jarvis, et. al. Cost per case comparison of back injury claims of chiropractic versus medical management for conditions with identical diagnostic codes. Journal of Occupational Medicine. 33(8): 847-52. 1991.
Nyiendo. Disabling low back Oregon workers’ compensations claims. part II: time loss. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 14(4): 231-9. 1991.
State Department of Washington Department of Labor and Industries. Attending Doctor’s Handbook. first published 1993, revised March 2005.
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