Topic: L&I Pilot Project for injured workers
Guest: Lisa Rutherford, Family Nurse Practitioner
Date: October 29, 2013
Memorial is participating in a University of Washington pilot program that identifies injured workers who are at high risk of being out of work for more than four weeks. The program aims to assess their injuries and improve on their progress by involving them more in the process.
How does it work?
The works complete a survey of health-related questions. In addition to specifics about their injuries, we ask about how badly injured they think they are, and how quickly they think they can get back to work. Their answers are used to determine a score and the level of risk they face for significantly delaying their return to work.
We put together a game plan of sorts for them. It’s almost a more holistic approach, with everyone working for the same goal together. We get physical or occupational therapists involved if necessary, and we communicate with those specialists more often to ensure we are on the same page.
We spend more time coaching these patients about what to expect for pain, and encourage them to go slowly in their recovery, setting boundaries for what they should and shouldn’t try to do. It’s almost like having a personal medical trainer and a life coach.
The biggest thing is that we require each patient to keep a lot of physical activities – a daily diary. We meet frequently with them and keep them more involved in the process. It’s intended to increase self-accountability.
Why is this so important?
• Program like these are intended to help get injured workers back into the workplace – because that’s the ultimate goal. Our goal is to get them back in some capacity – ideally at full capacity in their original job, performing as they always did.
But even a modified capacity – light duty, or only working part time – is better than being off work completely.
• It’s a good thing across the board – decreases costs for the employer, and it’s good for the worker too, because they only get about 60 percent of wages when they are off work.
Have similar pilot projects been done?
• The Center for Occupational Health and Education, known as COHE
It’s a group that advocates for best practices in rehabilitating injured workers – and it originally started out as a pilot program. The program resulted in cost savings, and the state Department of Labor and Industries adopted it statewide.
Not every provider participates, but the providers at The Springs do.
Key point of the program: One of the best practices is that it advocates for direct communication with the employer immediately after seeing the worker – the patient – for the first time. The employers feel like they’re more connected to the process, and they should be, because when a worker makes a claim, it involves them and affects them.
o That direct contact also enables me to establish if there is light duty available for the worker, what other options are available, and to get the employer more information. For example: For a patient who may have developed carpal tunnel syndrome, we can work with the employer to examine and address whether ergonomic changes are needed.