By Lori Daugherty, CEO, Ascellus
The previous article, “The Prevalence of Concussion in the Workplace and Why It Should Be Addressed,” discussed the causes and symptoms of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), 24% of which occur in the workplace. Concussions, a mild form of TBI, (mTBI) are often due to trips, falls, falling objects, motor vehicle accidents or other forces applied to the head.
It is reported that 50% of concussions are left untreated every year, which can result in prolonged cognitive, physical and emotional symptoms, preventing injured workers from returning to work and increasing the potential for developing post-concussion syndrome (PCS), a condition that can last for months or even years.
Most people who suffer a concussion recover in two-to-three weeks. However, research shows that in addition to treating the physical symptoms of a concussion, it is crucial that the psychological responses are addressed as well. Recently, a peer-reviewed article detailed the findings of a two-year study that demonstrated the effectiveness of behavioral health intervention for injured employees experiencing delayed recovery due to work-related concussions.
The study “Improving Outcomes for Work-Related Concussions: A Mental Health Screening and Brief Therapy Model” assessed the effectiveness of a neurocognitive screening evaluation and brief work-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (W-CBT) program on return-to-work outcomes. The study included 157 patients who after sustaining a concussion experienced psychosocial sequelae that exacerbated their initial mTBI symptoms, such as mood, anxiety, sleep and anger/resentment issues.
Psychologists performed an initial screening on patients to identify neurocognitive or psychological concerns. After this initial assessment, 50% of these patients (who had been off work for many months before being referred) felt ready to return to full work duty and did so at maximum medical improvement. Those who displayed significant mental health problems received further assessment followed by W-CBT that included strategies to manage anxiety and improve concentration, self confidence and communication skills. Depending on their rate of recovery, each patient received three-to-six individual therapy sessions, which included psychoeducation about concussion recovery, stress reduction, relaxation and mindfulness training and support in managing related pain and sleep problems.
Even though the workers in this study had spent an average of 10 months off work between injury and referral, this brief intervention model enabled them to return to work, on average, seven weeks after their initial evaluation, and 99% of patients returned to full work duty without restrictions or accommodations. This study illustrates the success this treatment model has on the psychological and emotional recovery of patients dealing with complex psychosocial post-concussion features.
This study determined that most patients found work-focused cognitive behavioral therapy to be a crucial component in their recovery by reducing negative thought patterns and offering coping strategies that assisted injured workers to better manage resentment, stress, anxiety and depressed mood. Introducing alternative coping patterns and behaviors helped workers mitigate post-concussion symptoms and overcome psychological barriers, arming them with the confidence and recovery skills necessary to return to their pre-jury activities, including work.
About Lori Daugherty
Loraine Daugherty is Chief Executive Officer at Ascellus where she provides analytical decision-making, strategic planning and executive leadership. As CEO, she is focused on developing best practices for organizational processes, performance measurement systems and building Ascellus’ infrastructure to maximize the company’s growth. With more than 30 years of industry experience in workers’ compensation, Ms. Daugherty also has professional expertise in Medicaid, Medicare Part B, third-party contracting, administration, client services and operations. Known for her exceptional leadership style and professional savvy for cultivating high-performance teams, Ms. Daugherty was recruited to implement an enterprise growth strategy and maximize business results for Ascellus. Prior to joining Ascellus, she worked with both private and public entities and has a track record of successful launches of early-stage healthcare companies as well as successful exits to strategic and public entities.
Ascellus is the leading behavioral health provider focused on helping injured workers restore their physical and emotional wellbeing. By bringing people and technology together, Ascellus delivers customized treatment options through a national network of 1,500 licensed clinicians, reducing costs for workers’ compensation claims and empowering injured workers to return to work sooner.