ONE OF the main ways to reduce workers’ compensation costs is to get injured workers back on the job as quickly as possible, and when it is safe to do so. The key, experts say, is to help the injured employee better engage in the workers’ comp system, so they have a better understanding of the claims process and what they can expect from it. For many people the workers’ compensation system is daunting and when they don’t hear from their claims adjuster or anybody at work about their case for extended periods of time, they get nervous. And if that happens, and they feel adrift, they may seek out legal counsel for their claim, at which point it can spiral out of control for the employer. But you can avoid that by focusing on the following:
Getting an early and accurate diagnosis and putting the injured worker on a treatment plan greatly helps them recover faster – and it prevents the misuse of medicines. This fast-track – or sports medicine – approach has the added effect of letting the employee know they are valued and that the employer cares about their recovery. One of the most important parts of this early treatment is to get the right diagnosis early, so the doctor can plan a course of treatment.
Once an employee is off work for a workers’ comp claim, you have the opportunity to show you really care about their rehabilitation and are there to answer questions about the process. If you are at any point planning to discuss the claim, the injured worker should be in on the conversation. Your H.R. manager should keep them engaged through education and explaining the processes.
Besides advice and someone to listen to for the injured worker, some employers advocate for their injured employees through the workers’ comp process and representing their interests before the claims adjuster.
Monitor and explain treatment
Meet with the worker as early as possible after the injury to lay out the entire process for them, from the first doctor’s visit (which they likely have had already at that point) to what to expect when dealing with the claims adjuster. Third-party administrator Sedgwick makes a point of working with injured workers before they undergo surgeries or other medical procedures, in a process they call “prehabilitation.” They talk to them about what to expect during the recovery process, including the type of pain they may experience and how to cope. The proactive employer will stay in touch during treatment and help the worker monitor their process. If you are engaged, the injured worker is more likely to stay on track with the treatment regimens prescribed by the doctor. This may involve coordination with the treating physician so that any physical rehabilitation is done with their job responsibilities in mind. A good therapist can also explain why certain exercises are necessary for the injured worker. Also, urge the rehab center and the claims adjuster to ensure that the injured worker sees the same therapist every time.
Staying engaged with an injured worker can speed the recovery process and get them back to work as soon as they are ready and it’s safe to return. You may coordinate with their treating physician about bringing them back on light or alternative duties.