New Thinking for the New Year

                               

Save money OR improve care; or is it improve care AND save money? The more I learn about workers’ compensation methodology the more apparent it has become to me that a mindset shift on patient education may be needed. What better time to look in the mirror and ask yourselves, are we getting this wrong? More importantly, is getting it wrong costing employers tens of thousands, or perhaps, tens of millions of dollars?

Introducing a new idea immediately brings the inevitable question, “What is it gonna cost me?” The assumption being that additional or improved care costs more money. The better question should be, “How much is it gonna save me?” Patient education is a new idea that I believe is one of those “expense” items that will actually save employers money. If there is a way to motivate an injured worker to get committed to and engage in their recovery, there is a good chance that they will get better faster and stay better longer. I think we can all agree that a better informed and fully motivated injured worker is likely to get back to work sooner and less likely to experience a re-admission or recovery failure.

Educating an injured worker about the importance of a positive mindset, healthy nutrition, healing activity and proper rest, sets the stage for an optimized recovery. Most, if not all, workers know little or nothing about any of these “pillars of an optimized recovery” and that reality most certainly works against the best possible recovery in the shortest time possible. Is it true that patients want to get better faster and stay better longer, they just don’t know how? Ask any orthopedist and they will confirm to you the patient is absolutely the wildcard in the recovery process. I know this because I interviewed six board certified surgeons and they all agreed, a better-informed patient will result in a better recovery.

The second inevitable question after clearing the hurdle of accepting that the patient is the wildcard in the recovery process, is assessing the ROI of educating them. That ROI “data” is still being gathered as aggressively as possible. It is hard for me, as an injured worker who wrote a book on surgical recovery, to imagine that anyone doubts that improved outcomes can result from better patient education. My personal experience is that there is precious little reliable guidance anywhere on how to optimize recovery from a major injury. I can report that my surgeons, both for my spine surgeries and my partial knee replacements, noted that they were surprised at how quickly and well I was healing and recovering. Simply, an optimized patient equals an optimal outcome.

Save money OR improve care - or is it - improve care AND save money? New ways of thinking about how injured workers are cared for in the grand bargain can improve the outcomes both for patients and employers. This injured worker knows that if you spend the money to improve care with appropriate education for injured workers, employers will inevitably save money. Happy New Year and New Thinking!


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