April 20, 2017 by Leave a Comment
The days of focusing solely on an injured worker’s physical injuries are over. Savvy employers and payers are finding that ignoring behavioral issues can end up costing a boatload of money in delayed recoveries. Early intervention, good communication and worker advocacy are among the best practices to use.
Injured workers who have, or develop undiagnosed and untreated behavioral health issues are more likely to fall into the ‘creeping catastrophic’ claim pool; a simple meniscus tear that degenerates into a months- or years-long claim with multiple treatments and medications — and exorbitant costs.
Identifying and treating these issues is tricky. The stigma attached to mental health issues prevents many people from seeking treatment; providers and claims handlers are often unfamiliar with signs and symptoms; and payers may be reluctant to pay for something they believe is unrelated to the actual injury. However, it behooves employers and other payers to at least consider ways to target behavioral health issues among their injured workers.
Behavioral Health Issues
Behavioral health issues — also called mental health or psychosocial — include a variety of diagnoses. Anxiety and depression are the ones more commonly seen among injured workers.
In addition to an extended duration of the claim, some signs that may indicate a psychosocial issue is present include:
- Pain develops due to non-medical issues.
- Function does not improve.
- Multiple providers are involved.
- Visits to the emergency room with drug seeking behavior.
- Overutilization of treatments.
- Catastrophic thinking.
- Perceived injustice, toward the employer or others.
There are myriad reasons why some injured workers develop psychosocial issues, related to such things as adverse childhood experiences, environmental stimuli or genetics. The important thing is to identify them and intervene as early as possible.