How businesses can help injured workers recover faster

(BPT) – More than one million Americans suffer from work-related injuries each year, ranging from serious crushing injuries at a construction site to muscle or joint problems caused by repetitive activities in an office setting.

Workplace injuries can also be costly to both the person injured and the employer. Most employees do not receive their full pay while in recovery, and, according to the National Safety Council, employers pay an average of $ 40,000 per injury.

In addition to the $ 1 billion the U.S. Department of Labor estimates employers pay annually in direct medical and workers’ compensation costs, businesses incur several indirect costs when an employee is injured. These expenses can include training for replacement employees, accident investigations and corrective actions, repurchase or repair of damaged equipment or property, absenteeism and more.

Helping employees avoid injuries before they occur is always the best course of action, but when workplace injuries do happen, employers should have a prepared plan that helps employees recover as safely as medically appropriate and manages costs for all parties involved.

Early medical intervention is one approach that can make a difference for the injured employee and the business. Delaying either the reporting or treatment of a workplace injury can increase costs by more than 50 percent, according to a new study by the National Council on Compensation Insurance. When an employee is injured, he or she should promptly identify the injury and work with his or her employer to establish the best plan of care. This will help reduce recovery time and lower the costs associated with the injury.

Travelers developed a patented program called ConciergeCLAIM Nurse to provide injured employees with live, face-to-face engagement with a Travelers on-staff nurse who can answer their questions, guide them through the workers’ compensation claim process and assist them with that process throughout their recovery.

Because many injured employees come to urgent care clinics as a result of their first on-the-job accident, the Travelers ConciergeCLAIM Nurse program places nurses in select urgent care clinics operated by U.S. HealthWorks or Concentra in more than 50 locations across the country. After the employee has met with the clinic’s doctor, the Travelers nurse reviews the treatment plan and develops a comprehensive return-to-work focused recovery plan. This process includes:

* Clearly setting expectations about the claims process in order to reduce uncertainty, anxiety or fear;

* Assisting the employee with information he or she may need about the medical treatment plan developed by the clinic’s physician; and

* Using the nurse’s medical knowledge to help facilitate the care suggested by medical providers. This help can also lead to faster and more accurate claims and claims-payment decisions.

Over a three-year period, workers’ compensation cases using this approach reduced the number of days injured employees were out of work by 41 percent. The number of days it took them to recover from their injury and close their claim fell by 31 percent.

For all the preventive measures employers put in place, workplace injuries may be inevitable, no matter the type of business or line of work. Among the uncertainties associated with such injuries, one thing is clear: reporting and treating them early is vital to reducing the pains they inflict on both the employee and the business.

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