Top Factors Impacting Return to Work

Some might think that determining when a disabled patient will return to work is a matter of luck. Fortunately, you don’t have to roll the dice to have an estimate on how long someone will be out of commission from a disability or injury. Through years or collecting data about millions of disability cases including thousands of medical issues, standards for predicted disability duration (PDD) have been set. However, it is worth noting that while the averages hold true for most patients, a small percentage of outlying cases can have a large impact on the cost of workers compensation. In addition, the longer someone is out of work due to injury or disability the less likely they are to return. Managing workers compensation cases requires a focus on certain factors that can greatly impact the amount of time it takes for an individual to return to work. Reduce this amount of time can increase cost-savings for companies and case managers.

Immediate and Appropriate Care

Improving return to work stats starts immediately after the disability or injury. It is imperative that the worker receives proper medical and/or psychological care as quickly as possible. The swiftest road to recovery and return to work happens when the right care is immediately given. This includes proper medical diagnosis, medications, therapy, psychological and emotional support, as well as structured case management.

Setting Recovery Expectations

Research has proven that recovery expectations “are not simply an indirect measure of other factors, but that they have a direct influence on the recovery process.” After setting these expectations, if the worker still has concerns or fear, they will not recover in the amount of time discussed. It is important to probe into the various factors that might be prohibiting this process. For many this includes personal fears, social concerns, or something work-related. Addressing these barriers early on and getting the worker on board with recovery expectations is a must.

Work-Related Concerns

A significant barrier for some individuals might be work-related factors such as the physical demands of their job, the challenge or frustration of modified work, or the potential loss of overall job satisfaction. A worker might be embarrassed about their injury and worry about how others on the job will treat them when they return. They might lack the confidence needed to learn a new skill for a modified work load. These factors, as well as others, can reduce their expectation of overall job satisfaction upon returning to work. This can negatively impact their desire to recover more quickly, and could lead to additional days out on disability.

Addressing Return to Work Factors is Key

In order to reduce time out of work, it is important the key factors impacting return to work are addressed early and throughout the case management process. Ensuring that the worker receives immediate and appropriate care, has clear and agreed upon recovery expectations, and any work related concerns being addressed will decrease the risk for extended leave. Most importantly, it will help get the worker back on the job more quickly.