A Return-to-Work Program is Key for Your Home Care and Hospice Employees

March 14, 2016

For health care organizations and their employees, return-to-work programs are often more significant than to companies in other industries.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2012, 242 out of every 10,000 employees working in the health care industry lost work time due to occupational injury or illness. While those numbers are significant, they can be attributed to the unique nature of the industry, such as sick patients or dangerous substances, which may occur often. Additionally, home health workers have a high risk of overexertion injuries as result of forceful exertions and awkward postures during patient care, especially lifting and shifting patients.

With such high frequencies of lost work time occurring regularly, it is imperative health care organizations have an effective return-to-work program in place. Strong return-to-work programs provide employees with a smooth transition back to work, allowing them to make money and maintain benefits. They also help employers who can reduce the financial impact of workplace injuries and the duration of the disability, lower the costs of training new hires, reduce employee turnover, increase productivity, contain Workers’ Compensation premiums, and maintain a positive working relationship with their impacted employees.

So how do you run an effective return-to-work program? Health care interviewees responding to a research study said that their organization’s focus is on bringing employees back to work safely to avoid health issues recurring, according to Mathematica Policy Research. The first step in this process is called early intervention, where the organization’s immediate concern is connecting their injured or ill employee with an occupational health physician.

Throughout the recovery process, a variety of organizational staffing is available to address patient’s needs. These staff members include nurses, physicians and vocational rehabilitation counselors.

If and when ready to return to work in a limited capacity, the impacted employee can be phased back in to transitional work, according to Mathematica Policy Research. Their specific work position caters to the returning worker’s limitations and abilities, ensuring the employee is safe and not at risk first and foremost. This may involve anything from light and modified duties to alternative assignments, with the ultimate goal to get the employee resuming his or her normal activities. Additional provisions of a transitional program include continuous training and education of staffers involved in the program, the creation of a transitional position within an employee’s unit and a detailed time restriction plan to reduce recurrence risks.

There are also innovative return-to-work programs that involve getting injured employees volunteering at a non-profit while they are recovering. For example, one such program works with a nationwide network of non-profit organizations to make temporary job placements available to businesses. The employer under this arrangement pays the employee full or partial wages while benefitting from having a return-to-work assignment available. The non-profit gains much-needed free labor, and workers get out of the house and engaged in a routine while providing an opportunity to contribute to their communities. Workers at volunteer sites are treated as they would with any in-house return-to-work alternative – they are not only expected to follow the non-profit’s requirements but also that of their employer’s policies. The goal is to reduce the number of days an employee is not working.

Health care organizations don’t have to be alone in their development of return-to-work programs for their employees. There are numerous insurance companies and programs available to aid in the process of developing a successful program.  In fact, Manchester Specialty provides home care and hospice organizations with a complete suite of insurance coverage, including Workers’ Compensation, as well as the tools and strategies to contain costs and assist employees in returning to work. To discuss your Workers’ Compensation needs and the return-to-work programs our insurance carrier partners provide, you or your local agent/broker can contact us at 855.972.9399.