In our last article, we discussed the importance of choosing the right medical provider for workplace injuries and why that is a critical component of any process that strives to mitigate the impact that an injury can have on your day-to-day business operations. The focus of this article is the importance of immediate medical care, which goes together with choosing a provider.
Before we discuss strategies around immediate medical care, the most important thing to remember is that you, the employer, are in control of this process. If you wait for your insurance carrier to respond to you and reach out to the injured employee, that delay alone, which can be up to 3 days depending on the carrier, is enough to completely sabotage your injury mitigation efforts. It is up to you to decide which of the following options is the best course of action depending on the injury.
The first option available is nurse triage. This is not a new concept, but due to the success experienced by those who have been utilizing nurse triage, it has become one of the stars of workplace injury management. As always, if the injury is life-threatening, call 9-1-1. Otherwise, call the hotline given by the nurse triage provider. Here is a step-by-step look at the process:
- Supervisor & employee call the hotline. Calling with a supervisor or other designated employee is ideal, but not required.
- Talk to a nurse so the injury can be assessed.
- A treatment recommendation is given. This can be resolved on-site or referred to the occupational medical provider of your choosing.
That’s it. Simple and easy. There are many times where the injury does not necessitate additional medical attention, which keeps a claim from being filed and keeps the employee and supervisor at work, so no time is lost. If it is necessary to file a claim, the nurse will also complete the first report of injury and provide a copy to you, your insurance carrier and your Certified WorkComp Advisor. There are a couple ways to access nurse triage. One is by contracting directly with a service and the second is by utilizing a service provided by your insurance carrier (if available).
The second option is an on-site or near-site medical clinic. While this is ideal for large employers, it can also be very successful for smaller employers who band together either with other small employers or a large employer in their area who is looking to share costs. The benefits of a clinic go beyond workplace injuries as they also help with the overall cost of healthcare and help drive down the amount that is spent on your “people” insurance, whether you are self-insured or purchase a policy through a broker or agent. On-site or near-site medical clinics work in much the same way as nurse triage, but with the added benefit of face-to-face interaction.
Whether or not you currently have access to either nurse triage or an on-site/near-site medical clinic, having the proper policies and procedures in place so that you, your employees and your preferred occupational medical provider understand exactly what is expected of them is imperative. In a previous article, we discussed the importance of communicating the details of your workplace injury policy to employees during the on-boarding process. It never hurts to give them periodic reminders. This should be done on a regular basis and through different methods, such as written updates to policies or procedures, a paycheck stuffer, during weekly or monthly safety talks or at least quarterly as part of your other HR or safety communications.
A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the reasons for eliminating lag time in injury reporting and stressed the importance by referencing the data that shows the increase in costs associated with late reporting. In the case of immediate care, the goal is, at the very least, to determine if there is an injury that should be reported to the insurance carrier and, at most, take the first step to eliminating time away from work due to an injury. The increased costs associated with time away far outweigh those of late reporting.
Be sure to check back next week for the first installment on keeping employees at work after an injury. We will be discussing everything from determining the costs associated with time away to what you should call your program and why “return-to-work” needs to be discarded completely for something that makes more sense and addresses all your compliance-related scenarios. As always, thanks for reading, feel free to share, and be sure to contact me if you have any questions.
About the Author:
Ray Gage, Director of WalkerHughes Allen County Office, is a Master Work Comp Advisor who's passion and life's work is to help sophisticated, process-oriented businesses create safe, healthy, productive workplaces, and as a result, more profitable firms. For more information on Automate Safety along with the other tools offered by WalkerHughes to assist in your quest for Zero Injuries, contact Ray at email@example.com or by phone at 260-627-3641 with any questions or inquiries.