Creating a Gold Star Return-to-Work Program


How do you train managers on return to work and applying light duty restrictions? How do you know you’re selecting the right vendors and physicians? At the 2022 Workers’ Compensation Institute Conference in Orlando, an interactive session including audience members and an expert panel share the highs and lows of their return-to-work programs.

Speakers included:

  • Maxine Topper – Executive Vice President, Physicians Health Centers
  • Rosa Royo – Director of Workers’ Compensation, Miami Dade County Public Schools
  • Tish Cooke – Risk Manager – Workers’ Compensation, TopBuild

What makes a strong return-to-work program?

A successful program needs the support of everyone from executive- to entry-level employees. Without the support of the top organizational leadership, your program’s goals may lack the necessary buy-in of managers.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a workers’ compensation program, but the right strategy starts with your employees understanding that you’re invested in their well-being and seek the best possible outcome on their claims. Something as simple as sending injured workers a get well card can establish a meaningful relationship.

Third-party administrators (TPAs) need to clearly understand your vision for the program, which relies on rock-solid communication of your needs. Enhancing this relationship will also build more eagerness in their willingness to help achieve your vision.

What are some of the challenges seen in workers’ compensation programs?

A few of the common challenges seen throughout workers’ compensation programs include:

  • Inaccurate job descriptions, in regards to the physical requirements.
  • Untimely reporting of claims in decentralized workforces.
  • Inconsistent buy-in with return-to-work programs.
  • Poor communication between stakeholders.
  • Inconsistent implementation of a program by front-line managers.
  • Lack of cost allocation to branch locations, leading to a lack of manager buy-in.

How do you choose the best vendor partners?

Start by amplifying the voice of your risk management team. Some companies and public entities rely solely on the procurement department for all purchasing and contracting, excluding aspects of risk that your risk management team may catch. Your vendor partners should also be able to match the scale and scope of your organization. You should be actively reviewing claim outcomes and accounting for the experience of your injured workers too.

How do you select physicians for your injured workers?

Often, physician selection can come down to the network making selections without influence from the employer, so it is important that this information is kept current. Knowing that physicians are still accepting new patients is critical.

Physician partners treating injured workers should be occupational medical providers, and not just urgent care centers. When possible, avoiding physicians that dispense medication is best, since this can act as a cost-driver due to the conflict of interest it presents. They should also be able to work with employers on modified duty when appropriate.

Courtesy of Safety National

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