One of the most common issues for those who aid injured workers in their return to work trajectories is the growing number of caseloads with high-level needs.
There seems to be no end in sight. So, how do you lighten that load?
First, you must understand the return to work trajectory can be drastically different from one person to the next, even if they have the same medical diagnoses.
Medical diagnosis is not the best predictor of when or how someone will return to work.
Psychosocial factors like whether the worker enjoys their job or is experiencing issues at home play a major role.
This means the standard model of taking a medical treatment approach to the return to work process is not as successful as it once was.
This decline in the success of the standard approach is what is leading to a higher number of caseloads, longer claims, and less-than-ideal stakeholder relationships.
Because employers and case managers typically rely on rehabilitation providers to handle a worker’s return to work trajectory, it’s important you know what to look for in those providers to ensure they are driving positive outcomes for the clients and your caseloads.
A holistic, active approach to rehabilitation and returning to work
Rehabilitation providers need to holistically assess the injured worker’s situation. This helps identify any barriers in the return to work process and empowers them implement strategies to overcome those barriers.
Tools that can assist with a holistic assessment include:
- Biopsychosocial approach to assessment
- Flags assessment tool
- Reed Guidelines
- Official Disability Guidelines
- APMiQ Life Index
After completing a holistic assessment, the rehabilitation provider should develop strategies specific to the client to address their psychosocial, medical, and return to work barriers.
These strategies will map out a success path for the individual’s return to work journey.
Although this sounds simple enough, the holistic assessment often isn’t done well or isn’t done at all.
Providers need to move away from the old standard of return to work strategies and begin tailoring those strategies to the individual and the circumstances.
You should expect this tailored approach from each provider.
Some tenants of a tailored strategy could include:
- Tailoring the return to work program to the individual’s preferences
- Engaging the worker in the workplace
- Engaging the worker with the supervisor
The key is to provide a solution for each barrier. Don’t be afraid to ask clients what is impacting them.
You need to know to ensure the strategies provided enable the workers to overcome their barriers.
Other forms of active rehabilitation
Aside from the holistic approach, other strategies that can be employed to ensure the worker’s rehabilitation is active rather than passive include:
- Promoting the HBOGW with treatment providers and stakeholders
- Recognising the psychosocial changes caused by not working and prescribing work as a mode of rehabilitation
- Communicating regularly
- Being transparent and honest and demanding the same from the rehabilitation provider and stakeholders
- Establishing a positive role for the employer in the return to work process
- Using behavioral psychology, positive language, and priming
- Intervening early
- Engaging the worker in the workplace
- Encouraging the provider to have a sense of urgency
APM has a wealth of resources to assist with the many barriers that must be overcome during the return to work process.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance with identifying and monitoring the psychosocial barriers and progress of injured workers.
You have an incredible amount of power to positively impact the lives of injured workers and reduce your growing caseload, and we’re here to help.
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