Category Archives: Workplace Health Issues

Every Worker Deserves to Make it Home Safe – Every Day

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,190 people – more than 14 a day – died while doing their jobs in 2016. And, for every worker lost, countless loved ones, co-workers and friends are affected.

 

For more than 100 years, the National Safety Council has been a leader in workplace safety, and we believe we can eliminate preventable deaths in our lifetime. Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28 reminds us that we still have a long way to go. Despite all the advances that have been made in safety, for the first time in nearly a decade, workplace deaths have surpassed 5,000.

Implementing Safety Measures can Save Lives

NSC Safety training builds skills needed to save lives:

For more than 100 years, the National Safety Council has been a leader in workplace safety. We know that employers who show they care about the safety of their employees see improved morale, increased productivity, lower costs and, most importantly, fewer injuries.

The OSHA-NSC Alliance

The OSHA-NSC Alliance agreement aims to prevent workplace injuries, deaths and illnesses. As part of the agreement, OSHA and NSC partner to:

  • Develop compliance assistance tools and best practice documents
  • Convene, participate and exhibit at occupational safety and health forums and stakeholder meetings
  • Collaborate with other OSHA Alliance participants to address specific safety topics
  • Support and promote the Journey to Safety Excellence Campaign

WE’RE WORKING TOGETHER

Pledge to be Safe at Work

Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and you can show your commitment by taking our SafeAtWork pledge. Doing your part today can help save a life tomorrow – maybe even your own.

TAKE THE PLEDGE

Measure your Safety Progress

How is safety in your workplace progressing? The National Safety Council offers consulting and research services to help you track, evaluate and improve your safety management system.

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

4 Data-Based Tips for Workers’ Comp Injury Prevention

10:00 in the morning is an expensive time of day for many organizations. There is a spike in injury frequency in the service/hospitality, construction/natural resources and healthcare industries, according to Pinnacol Assurance. The Colorado workers’ compensation insurer released trends based on five years of its claims data in four industries. The results can help employers in the industries take positive steps toward improved workers’ comp injury prevention.

cost of soft tissue injuries info graphic for article, 4 Data-Based Tips for Workers’ Comp Injury Prevention

Trends

Injury Frequency. While many injuries occur to newly hired workers, some industries were noteworthy for other spikes in injury frequency

  • Healthcare – 3 – 4 years after the hire date
  • Clerical/professional – more than 10 years after the hiring date

Also, in healthcare, 38% of injuries happen during the first year on the job, whether the worker is new to the organization OR new to the industry.

Danger Zone TimesA drop in blood sugar levels is speculated as a reason

for the increase in injuries at 10 a.m. in several industries. Additional times of frequency spikes include:

  • Service Hospitality: 9 p.m. saw a spike in the most expensive injuries
  • Construction/natural resources: 9 – 11 a.m. and 1 – 3 p.m.
  • Clerical/professional: 8 – 11 a.m., with a significant spike at 2:00

Vulnerable Body PartsThe lower back is the most commonly injured body part in both the professional/clerical and construction/natural resources fields.  It’s also the most expensive location for injuries in construction/natural resources.  Other commonly injured and/or expensive body parts injured include

  • Service/hospitality: fingers, hands and lower back are most commonly injured. Lacerations, contusions, strains, sprains, and burns are the most expensive injuries.
  • Construction/natural resources: lower back, knee, foot, lower leg, and fingers are the most expensive body parts injured.
  • Healthcare: lower back, shoulder, knee, wrist, and ankle are the most expensive. Strains, strikes (needlesticks) and strains (lifting/carrying) are the most frequent causes of injuries, while animals are number 8 on the list of causes, due to home health care incidents.
  • Clerical/professional: lower back, knee, fingers, shoulder and wrist are the most commonly injured body parts. The most expensive injury types are contusions, strains, sprains, fractures and The most frequent causes of injures are strains from lifting, falls from ice/snow, falls on the same level, repetitive motion, and motor vehicle incidents.

    [SEE FULL STORY HERE]

Remote patient monitoring cuts hospital admissions, ER visits, report finds

Doctor conferring with patient and on-screen specialist for article, Remote patient monitoring cuts hospital admissions, ER visits, report findsDive Brief:

  • One-fourth of healthcare organizations say remote patient monitoring reduces emergency room visits and hospital readmissions, while 38% say the technology results in fewer inpatient admissions, according to a new KLAS Research report.
  • The industry-backed American Telemedicine Association and the research group looked at how RPM is impacting providers and payers, talking with 25 organizations that used RPM products from seven different vendors.
  • The key use cases for remote patient monitoring were heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, though interest in using RPM for other conditions like diabetes and hypertension is starting to pick up. RPM is also seeing some limited use in mental health, surgical recovery, dementia and cancer.

Dive Insight:

Remote patient monitoring is a growing sector in the digital health space, with an aging population and the opportunity to better manage chronic conditions. There is a potential windfall for companies with the right idea and clinical evidence to back it up, and investors are lining up to get a piece of the action. Disease monitoring was among the top-funded value propositions in last quarter, with $781 million across 38 deals, according to Rock Health.

RPM also holds potential to improve health outcomes. In a 2017 study, breast reconstruction patients with access to a mobile app that allowed them to submit photos and report information to their doctors had fewer post-surgery follow-up appointments than patients without the app. Patients using the app also rated their follow-up care higher on convenience.

Payers are recognizing its benefits and incentivizing its use, too. In its physician fee schedule final rule  for 2018, CMS unbundled a code for RPM, allowing physicians to seek reimbursement for collecting and interpreting health data generated remotely by patients, digitally stored and sent to providers, with a minimum of 30 minutes.

The move marked a “huge win” for RPM and a “big step forward for Medicare’s ability to deal with chronic conditions,” Gary Capistrant, the ATA’s chief policy officer, told Healthcare Dive earlier this year. He noted that several years ago when Medicare covered a code for chronic care but didn’t cover remote monitoring, the result was a tepid uptake.

Use of RPM is growing across all use cases, but is particularly robust for hypertension, mental health and cancer, where there is a lot of room for growth, according to KLAS.

According to the report:

  • 13% of organizations report RPM improves medication compliance;
  • 8% say it lowered A1c levels, an indication of how the body is maintaining blood glucose levels;
  • 13% say it improved patient health;
  • 25% report greater patient satisfaction; and
  • 17% cite quantified cost reductions.

    [SEE FULL STORY HERE]

6 Solutions for WC’s Compounded Medications Issue

September 26, 2018 by 

“There is no such thing as an FDA-approved compound medication.” That statement from myMatrixx Chief Clinical Officer Phil Walls underscores one of the main criticisms of these medications; while the drugs within the mixtures may all be FDA-approved, the specific combinations have not been tested and verified.

Safety is just one concern, however. The other is cost; they generally workers preparing medications for article, Compounded Medications — 6 Solutions to Address a Nagging Issue for WCare priced significantly higher than similar, FDA-approved drugs or the sum of their underlying medications.

Both the utilization and the average cost of compounded medications in the workers’ compensation system has decreased in recent years. However, there are still pockets of excessive use. Stakeholders need to maintain a steady and continued focus on efforts to curb the unnecessary use of these pharmaceuticals.

Problems Cited

Compounds are a mixture of drugs intended for a specific patient’s use. According to an FDA report, they are beneficial only in limited circumstances; such as when other medications have failed, a patient is allergic to some of the inactive ingredients or has difficulty swallowing.

The federal agency inspected compounding facilities and noted the following “troubling conditions” that could lead to widespread harm of patients:

  1. Toaster ovens used for sterilization.
  2. Pet beds near sterile compounding areas.
  3. Operators are handling sterile drug products with exposed skin, which sheds particles and bacteria, among many others.

Latest Stats

Compounded medications are not considered first-line therapy for pain or other common conditions of injured workers according to industry guidelines, such as evidence-based medicine guidelines from Work Loss Data Institute, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and many other state-specific guidelines.

Compounds are available in many applications but are used in workers’ compensation most often as topical products for pain management. Usually, compounded medications are excluded from workers’ compensation formularies, and require prior authorization before they are dispensed to an injured worker.

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

Orchestrate A Culture of Quickly Reporting Workplace Injuries

September 27, 2018 by 

band in front of shipping containers for article, Orchestrate A Culture of Quickly Reporting Workplace InjuriesAn important role of the claims management team is to coordinate with employers and defense interests to make sure quickly reporting workplace injuries is a top priority of your organization.  It is easier for claims to be evaluated and decisions regarding primary liability to be made in an effective and efficient manner when injuries are quickly reported.  There are many steps claims management teams can make to develop important work injury compliance steps, which includes the use of evolving technology.

Emphasis the Importance of Reporting Workplace Injuries

There are several steps that employers can make to ensure workers’ compensation claims are reported in a timely manner.  This starts with developing a culture of understanding on the part of the employees.  This goes beyond making sure the proper posters are displayed in the workplace:

  • Make all new employees aware of workers’ compensation information at the time of hire. This includes providing documentation to new hires about the name of the company’s workers’ compensation insurer and other contact information;
  • Provide documentation on how work injuries should be reported and the information needed to make a report of injury; an
  • Ensure that the employer has a contact person to make sure the First Report of Injury is filed timely with the workers’ compensation insurer. In some instances, employers and their staff are unsure how the process generally works.  Making sure these persons understand the process is important.

All workers’ compensation insurance carriers and third-party administrators can provide information to their insured on these processes.

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

Access to Medical Treatment for Injured Workers in California

Year 1 Annual Report

by Andrew W. MulcahyMadeline B. DoyleRosalie MalsbergerKandice A. Kapinos

worker in hard hat holding shoulder for article, Access to Medical Treatment for Injured Workers in CaliforniaAn estimated 16 million workers use workers’ compensation (WC) insurance annually in California. Many recent policy changes might have affected access to care for injured workers. For this report, the authors assess the various dimensions of access to care in the evolving policy environment to ensure that injured workers have adequate access to needed medical care and the opportunity to achieve better health outcomes. Access to care is an important domain to monitor, especially among vulnerable populations, as patients with better access to care systems are more likely to receive comprehensive, higher-quality care and are therefore more likely to experience better outcomes.

The key objective of this report is to describe access to medical care among injured workers in the state of California, as mandated by Labor Code Section 5307.2. The authors analyze administrative and medical service bill data to examine changes over time for measures related to access to care for injured workers. The authors aim to highlight potential access-to-care barriers in the WC system and to understand whether changes in the WC system may be increasing access for injured workers.

Overall, there were increases in claims, bill lines, and spending per provider. Although these increases were moderate to large in number, many of the differences were not statistically significant. These results suggest a concentration of treatment for injured workers, in which a relatively smaller number of providers furnished care to injured workers. Increasing concentration could offer opportunities for specialization in the treatment of work-related injuries. On the other hand, increasing concentration could lead to future access barriers related to scheduling.

Key Findings

Provider participation

  • Fewer providers provided care to California WC patients in 2014 than in 2010.
  • The specialties with the largest declines from 2010 to 2014 in WC-participating providers were family medicine/general practice, chiropractic medicine, and pharmacy providers. Most other specialties were relatively stable.
  • Over the same period, there was an increase in the number of WC injuries.

Utilization and payments per provider

  • The average number of claims per provider increased from 2010 to 2014.
  • Payments per provider increased by $8,813, on average, from 2010 to 2014.
  • The observed increases in average claims per provider, bill lines per provider, and payments per provider were likely driven by changes in very large practices or health systems treating many injured workers.

    [SEE FULL STORY HERE]

Technology Can Make Return-to-work More Effective and Efficient

September 24, 2018 by 

You are all probably aware of many of the standard strategies that can be employed to ensure timely return to work during and after recovery from an occupational injury or illness.

Technology Can Make Return to Work More Efficient

But are there any newer technologies and approaches that can facilitate this process to make it more effective and expedited?

arm in cast using iPad for article, Technology Can Make Return-to-work More Effective and Efficient

In a previous article, I discussed the critical need for an advanced form of “job description,” which we refer to as a digital job profile (DJP) containing a comprehensive physical demands analysis(PDA).  It bears repeating that the digital job profile is the cornerstone to understanding the explicit, quantitative demands of a job, and is utilized by all stakeholders in the claim management continuum. How can we return an individual to modified or full duty without knowing exactly what the job requirements are?

Psychological Component Can Play Greater Role Than Biological

Many of you are aware of the biopsychosocial model of injury or illness. In short, this is the recognition that non-physical factors highly impact functional restoration. In fact, many experts feel that the psychosocial components play a greater role than biological ones. You have undoubtedly noticed that the same type of injury may be devastating to one individual, while a more resilient person easily overcomes it. It is extremely helpful to predict whether your claimant is likely to be in the former or latter category.  If the claimant is fragile from a psychosocial perspective, many mitigation strategies can be employed to prevent the delayed return to work/life activities that inevitably accompanies these comorbidities.

Fortunately, there are automated, online screening tools available that allow you to enter claimant responses to a brief series of questions, and provide you with an immediate, calculated psychosocial risk level (high, medium, low). These validated tools may also recommend various interventions derived from the response pattern of claimants to the questionnaire. Some folks will benefit from cognitive behavior therapy, and others from family counseling, vocational guidance or psychiatric assessment. Risk screening helps to identify the level of risk, as well as appropriate strategies to help individuals better cope with the added stress of an injury or illness.

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

Health Navigation – Finding a Path to Better Health and Lower Costs

September 20, 2018 by 

If you or a loved one has ever been hurt or sick, you know well that healthcare and insurance systems are complicated; the challenges can seem endless and overwhelming.

Health navigation helps individuals and companies through these challenges. It includes clinical services, of course, but it’s much more than that. Knowing what services are needed, where to get them, and in what timeframe are critical elements to getting on the right path to recovery.

Fundamental Premise of Health Navigation

health navigation signage for article, Health Navigation – Finding a Path to Better Health and Lower CostsPeople can’t always tell at the onset how serious an injury or illness is. So, sometimes they go to an ER when they could have gone to a doctor’s office, or they go to a doctor’s office when they could have cared for themselves. Other times people underestimate or don’t recognize symptoms, and look back wishing they had realized how serious something really was – this regret can make them more likely to overreact the next time they are confronted with a health concern.

The fundamental premise of health navigation is getting people the care they need when and where they need it, which removes burdensome guesswork. A best-in-class health navigation provider should:

  • Have clinicians which navigate people to the right level of care at the right time, in the right place.
  • Have systems to help people determine the severity of each case and the best course of action for treatment.
  • Provide the needed care or guide patients in self-care whenever possible.
  • Make a referral when further care is required

People know overtreatments and over prescribing exist, but they don’t know how to tell when it is happening to them. What’s the best practice?

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

Educate Stakeholders on Effective Alternatives to Opioids

September 12, 2018 by 

A combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen does a better job of relieving acute pain than opioids. Despite clear evidence that the combination of the less dangerous medications provides equal or greater pain relief, many physicians still prescribe opioids for injured workers with pain.

Doctor holding a note that reads, "Explore non-Opioid Alternatives" for article, Educate Stakeholders on Effective Alternatives to OpioidsThis statement was just one point made in a recent session at the Workers’ Compensation Institute’s Annual Conference in Orlando presented by:

  • Marcos A. Iglesias, Chief Medical Officer of Broadspire
  • Mark Pew, senior VP for Product Development & Marketing at Preferred Medical.

The Problem

The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has been well documented in recent years. Researchers say Americans consume more opioids than any other country, regardless of the myriad physical and psychological problems associated with their unnecessary use.

While stakeholders in the workers’ compensation system have made progress in curbing the unnecessary use of opioids in recent years, it will take a concerted effort of educating providers as well as employees about chronic pain, and effective treatment alternatives said Iglesias and Pew.

Findings released by the Society for Internal Medicine on a one-year comparison of patients with chronic low back pain who were treated with either opioids or ibuprofen included:

  • No difference in function
  • Those given opioids had statistically worse pain control

Among the side effects of opioids are

To Fix That Pain In Your Back, You Might Have To Change The Way You Sit

My back hurts when I sit down.

It’s been going on for 10 years. It really doesn’t matter where I am — at work, at a restaurant, even on our couch at home. My lower back screams, “Stop sitting!”

To try to reduce the pain, I bought a kneeling chair at work. Then I got a standing desk. Then I went back to a regular chair because standing became painful.

spinal gif animation for article, To Fix That Pain In Your Back, You Might Have To Change The Way You SitI’ve seen physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons and pain specialists. I’ve mastered Pilates, increased flexibility and strengthened muscles. At one point, my abs were so strong my husband nicknamed them “the plate.”

All these treatments helped a bit, at first. But the pain never really went away. So a few years ago, I decided to accept reality: Sitting down is — and will always be — painful for me.

Then back in November, I walked into the studio of Jenn Sherer in Palo Alto, Calif. She is part of a growing movement on the West Coast to teach people to move and sit and stand as they did in the past — and as they still do in other parts of the world. For the past 8 years, Sherer has been helping people reduce their back pain.

I was interviewing Sherer for a story about bending. But she could tell I was in pain. So I told her my story.

Her response left me speechless: “Sitting is a place where you can find heaven in your joints and in your back,” she says. “It’s not sitting that’s causing the pain, it’s how you’re sitting.

“Do you want me to show you how?”

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]