Like carpel tunnel a decade ago, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an emerging work comp trend causing concern for many employers. At a Traumatic Brain Injury seminar we hosted on April 3, work comp and brain injury specialists made it clear that these injuries can be subjective and depending on the doctor, treatment and recovery can vary widely in cost and scope. From concussions to severe trauma, when an employee suffers a traumatic brain injury at work, make sure they see a medical provider experienced in treating these types of injuries.
Best Practices to Get Employees Back to Work
Without a return to work process in place, employees seek treatment at the ER or with a family doctor which can draw out the recovery process and drive up the cost of the claim. The best way to get injured employees back to productive work and reduce the cost of claims is to partner with a medical provider who understands work comp.
Choosing the Right Provider to Treat Workplace Injuries
In Minnesota, you cannot force your employees to see a specific medical provider for workplace injuries, but you can recommend a designated provider who knows your company and understands work comp. Developing a relationship with the right medical provider may take some time, but the continued benefit to your work comp program will make your effort worthwhile.
- Look for an occupational medicine or other provider that offers the following:
- Occupational health and employee injury management as part of their core practice areas
- Mission and vision that support your goals of keeping employees safe, healthy, and productive
- Evidence-based protocols, such as those established by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) or the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Work Ability and Return to Work
The right medical provider will help you control your work comp costs in several specific ways: keep claims medical-only when possible, reducing the cost of the claim by 70% on your experience mod; reducing overall medical costs; and, if lost-time wages are paid, keeping time off to a minimal amount. The right provider can also help prevent malingering claims and decrease the likelihood of lawyer involvement.
How to Evaluate Medical Providers
Create a list of medical providers then give them a call. Ask for the names of the medical director, clinic director, business manager or clinic marketing staff. Most clinics are eager for new business and will be open to discussing options.
Qualify the providers on your list by scheduling a visit. During the visit, share more information about your company and operations, and your return to work program, and find out if the provider is able to meet your goals. The focus of your visit is not to negotiate a discounted fee schedule, but to provide the clinic with regular business in exchange for their commitment to certain requirements. If the clinic is unable to commit, cross them off and move onto the next provider on your list.
Train your employees on your return to work process. Let them know you are fully committed to helping them get the best possible care if they get injured at work, and that you have a return to work process in place.
If the employee chooses to see a provider not on your list, do not be afraid to reach out to the clinic to inform them of your return to work process, provide the employee’s job description and a list of available light duty work, and ask for documentation.
You should also partner with a 24/7 nurse care line specializing in workplace injuries. Available any time, a nurse care line program often cuts out a trip to the ER by immediately assessing the seriousness of an injury, recommending treatment options, and assisting the employee with seeking medical care as needed. The care line nurse can also assist with obtaining documents and sharing other important information with the medical provider, regardless of who the employee chooses to visit. Contact your insurance company or broker to see if a nurse care line is available to you.
Take Steps to Prevent Brain Injuries at Work
In addition to a return to work program, take steps to prevent traumatic brain injuries in your workplace:
- Remove tripping hazards from walkways and workspaces like clutter, cords, rugs, spills, or anything else that could cause a slip, trip, or fall
- Clean up spills immediately and use “wet floor” signs to alert employees of slippery surfaces
- Use handrails when taking the stairs
- Only use objects designed specifically for climbing; never use chairs, tables, or other objects to reach overhead items
- Use caution working from heights; never stand on the top two steps of a ladder
- For jobs that require a helmet, make sure it’s properly fitted and in good condition
- During the winter, provide employees with portable salt-and-sand shakers and encourage them to use the shakers on slippery spots on their way into or out of the workplace