Proper case management and return-to-work programs can help reduce costs, improve worker morality and minimize litigation. The mission of safety and health programs is to prevent injury and illness, but if the unfortunate occurs, proper case management and an expeditious return-to-work reduces costs, improves worker morality and minimizes litigation.

F.W. Lundy, CSP, senior safety coordinator for BE&K in Birmingham, Ala., and Rich Baldwin, CSP, corporate safety director for BE&K presented these ideas to attendees in a session yesterday at the VPPPA Conference in Seattle, Wash.

“Safety and health management by itself is not the answer. You have to manage the case,” said Baldwin. “The idea is to ensure that all of the management benefits and minimizes the impact to the injured employee.”

Medical case management is can also benefit employers by helping to reduce workers” compensation and other direct costs of injuries.

In order to have effective medical case management, you must prepare for the incident before it happens, said the speakers.

Pre-incident tips include:

  • Make sure procedures are developed and communicated at all levels of the company.
  • Let employees know their responsibilities and rights.
  • Designate responsible persons to handle certain situations.
  • Train those appropriate people in correct incident investigation techniques and goo listening and communications skills.
  • Locate a medical care provider and emergency care facilities.
  • Get to know your claims people.
  • Use an occupational physician if possible.
  • Decide which claims will require medical management early.
  • Conduct pre-employment medical screening.

Post-incident tips include:

  • Getting the affected person care as soon as possible.
  • Have someone accompany affected person to the medical facility.
  • Let the injured worker know you care and reassure them; do not be judgmental or threatening.
  • Notify claim service immediately for severe losses and OSHA if warranted.
  • Assemble the pre-selected team and begin investigation.
  • Interview witnesses as needed.
  • Implement safety system changes if warranted.
  • Return-to-work programs are another part of effective medical case management.

“Companies can see up to a 60 percent reduction in costs through a structured return-to-work program,” said Lundy. “A return-to-work program must have total management support, cooperation from front-line management and proper education in order to be effective.”

When noting the benefits of return-to-work programs, Baldwin cited a study by the Washington Business Group that estimates companies can save $8 to $10 on every $1 invested in return-to-work programs.

“After 8-12 weeks of work, only 50 percent of injured employees ever return to work,” said Baldwin. “Return to work programs give employees a familiar routine that keeps them in touch with co-workers and helps them to recover faster because they are more productive.”

by Virginia Sutcliffe