Webinar Provides Tips For Managing WC Costs As Workforce Gets Older

                               Boston, MA - As the U.S. workforce gets older, sicker and more out of shape, soaring rates of largely controllable medical conditions threaten employers' workers compensation medical spending.


A new Liberty Mutual webinar highlights how effectively managing workers compensation costs requires evaluating the whole patient, rather than just the work-related injury.

Liberty Mutual's “Treat the Patient, Not the Injury” webinar highlights the financial impact on employers' medical costs from soaring rates of obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and other largely manageable conditions. The new webinar also underscores the need to identify such conditions early in a workers compensation claim in order to provide the best possible medical outcome for the injured worker and effective cost management costs for their employer.

Dr. Ron Z. Goetzel, Vice President for Consulting and Applied Research at Thomson Reuters and Research Professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, opens the webinar by reviewing:

  • The impact of a growing number of manageable medical conditions on medical costs. Obesity, for example, is responsible for 27 percent of the total increase in healthcare costs between 1987 and 2002.
  • How such manageable health risk factors increase employer medical, disability, workers compensation and absence costs. One study documented that overweight and obese employees cost an employer 25 percent more than normal-weight employees.
  • The positive financial impact of well-designed and evidence-based workplace health promotion and disease prevention programs. Case studies documented returns-on-investment for such programs. One company saved $4.70 for every $1.00 it invested in a program, while other companies earned lower, but still positive returns on investment.

“A growing body of scientific literature suggests that well-designed, evidence-based health management programs offer clear benefits for employers,” notes Dr. Goetzel. “These include reducing health, absence and disability costs while improving productivity, thereby strengthening a company's financial performance.”

In the second half of the webinar, Dr. Will Gaines, a regional medical director with Liberty Mutual, reviews why recognizing obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis is so important to effectively managing workers compensation claims.

“Delivering the best possible medical outcomes for injured workers requires quickly spotting those conditions known to delay recovery and complicate treatment of work-related injuries,” notes Gaines. “The workers compensation insurer – working with the broker and employer – must help treating doctors understand how these largely manageable conditions can so negatively affect claimants' outcomes.”

Dr. Gaines reviews several case studies showing the process and value of active case management. In one, a Liberty Mutual regional medical director helped a treating physician provide better diabetes care for an injured worker, leading to a better outcome for the claimant without surgery.

When a physician treating the injured worker requested arthroscopic surgery to repair a small work-related tear in his patient's rotator cuff, the Liberty Mutual regional medical director reviewing the case became concerned.

The injured worker was overweight and not in control of his Type Two diabetes. And the medical literature documents that individuals with the claimant's level of poor blood sugar control not only have more upper body musculoskeletal problems, such as a torn rotator cuff, but also heal much slower and face more complications after surgery.

The regional medical director shared these findings with the treating physician, who then worked with the claimant to better control blood sugar, recommended physical therapy, and helped the employer modify the job. Five months later, the employee's pain was gone and both the employee and treating physician saw no need for surgery.

Source: Liberty Mutual Group 

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