Jacksonville, FL – The workers’ compensation industry urgently needs proactive strategies to deal with two growing concerns: the aging workforce and the increased incidence of comorbidities among injured workers. These trends are dramatically impacting claims costs and outcomes, as well as complicating treatment and management of work-related injuries.
To discuss the scope of these issues and the impact on workers’ compensation programs, One Call Care Management (One Call) sent two of its clinical experts to deliver presentations at the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference held in Richmond, Virginia this week.
Kevin Glennon, RN, vice president of clinical programs at One Call, presented, “Managing the Needs of the Aging Injured Worker,” and Eric Patten, RN, senior director of clinical services, discussed “Strategies to Manage the Pandora’s Box of Comorbid Conditions.”
“Older employees are beginning to represent a larger segment of our workforce,” said Glennon. “Physiological changes occur as part of the natural aging process, but they also present safety concerns. For example, older employees may experience loss of muscle, strength and stamina. Their eyesight and hearing may decline, and their sense of balance may be compromised, making aging workers more susceptible to falls.”
According to a 2012 National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) study, aging workers experience 50 percent higher medical costs and 25 percent higher indemnity costs on average than their younger counterparts. This is mainly because their injuries are often more severe in nature and require more treatment and recovery time.
“Employers can implement clinical strategies and optimize safety in the workplace for aging workers to capitalize on the expertise and strengths of their senior staff, while taking their needs into consideration and preventing injuries from occurring. For example, offering frequent breaks can reduce fatigue and the risk of injury,” added Glennon.
“Another key challenge is the increased incidence of comorbid conditions among injured workers,” said Patten. “A comorbidity is another condition or disease occurring at the same time as the work injury. For example, an injured worker may have sustained an ankle fracture, but the healing and recovery may be complicated by the fact that this injured worker also has diabetes.”
According to a 2012 NCCI report, the number of claims with a comorbid condition nearly tripled over nine years, and on average, claims with a comorbidity experienced twice the medical costs as otherwise comparable claims.
Patten explained that the two trends are related. “As workers age, there is a higher chance that they will have one or more comorbid conditions. Workers’ compensation programs must take a more holistic view of the injured worker’s health status to identify comorbidities early and develop a comprehensive approach to care.”
Patten outlined several proactive strategies. Some employers have incorporated onsite health assessments and case management to identify conditions. Others have implemented wellness programs to address employee health and combat common issues, such as a sedentary lifestyle, the need for nutritional counseling and weight management.
If you missed this session, Patten will also be discussing comorbidities on December 7 at 3:00 p.m. PDT during the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference in Las Vegas.
Source: One Call
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This is not a paid placement.