On Wednesday in the Wellness ZENter, RIMS attendees had the opportunity to hear about a recent study on the work/health relationship. Darrell Brown, Chief Claims Officer at Sedgwick, and Brian Gifford, Director of Research and Measurement at Integrated Benefits Institute, explored the results of this study and what the findings mean for the risk management industry.
They discussed how illness does more to an employer’s workforce than run up healthcare spending. Brian noted that it actually impacts the way a company does business. It is important for employers to recognize that helping employees get healthier is a way to improve business performance. A key finding in our recent survey showed that about 13% of all of the occupational claims that we saw had been in the non-occupational system before. These are people who have had some kind of non-work-related injury that took them off the job. The findings from several studies on this topic show that when you’re dealing with occupational injuries, you’re dealing with people that have a high risk because they have other health issues.
Brian explained that if there is more communication and coordination within an organization, you can start to triage some of the cases and you can almost spot the employees who are at a high risk for a later claim. By the time you’re dealing with a short-term disability claim, you’re likely to see it showing up later on because you’re dealing with a person with health challenges. Brian also pointed out that people who were actually touching both systems had the highest costs in terms of lost productivity and it was higher than those who had multiple short-term disability claims.
They discussed how treating the person no matter how they sustain an injury or illness, and taking a holistic look at them, can improve outcomes. Darrell pointed out the importance of figuring out the best way to treat the person in terms of communication and transferring them from one benefit system to another. If you don’t do those things, friction and litigation can occur and when there is litigation, the costs rise exponentially.
Brian noted that risk managers have a stake in this because of all of the ways in which poor health can impact a person’s performance on the job – their ability to show up day in and day out, their ability to produce high quality work and their ability to avoid disabilities – all of that down the road is going to have an impact on the workers’ compensation field.
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