It can be easy for insurers and risk managers to fall into the trap of viewing people as data. Person X who slipped at work and sustained a back injury is a $1,000 workers’ compensation claim, and person Y with chronic knee pain is simply a workplace disability stat. But at the core of that claim is a person in pain - someone who needs help to cover the cost of care and get back to work and normality as quickly as possible.
“The industry needs to recognize that people really count,” said Cammie McAda, Vocational Rehab Employer Services Leader, Professional Services Team, for Guardian. The firm was recently honored with the Decision Health Platinum Award for Outstanding Performance in Workers’ Compensation and Disability Programs. The award recognizes programs supporting employees by promoting wellness, safety in the workplace and opportunities to assist injured employees.
“At Guardian, we saw an opportunity to bring a much more proactive approach in getting people back into work,” McAda told Insurance Business. “It started with going on-site with one of our clients and learning a lot more about their day-to-day business, their handlings and their culture. We got to know every aspect of their company in order to better understand how a person returning to the workforce might be impacted.”
People often make presumptions about exactly how occupations are performed, whether that’s in a manufacturing role, in production or on the assembly line, but there are many nuances between companies and positions. Picking apart those nuances is the first step towards creating effective people-centric return to work programs, McAda explained.
A unique and robust return to work program considers all sorts of things, such as: which positions require more standing, walking or lifting; which positions are less time constrained on the assembly line; which positions are impacted more heavily by number of workers; and so on. Some roles can be used as transitional positions to get injured or disabled employees back into work as quickly as possible.
“It’s important to break down presumptions about a person and really get to know them and what they’re experiencing,” said McAda. “A person has knee surgery and now they’ve had that knee replacement and are ready to go back to work. But what changed in their life during their time out of work? Did any other factors contribute to the knee problem? Did that person have osteoarthritis? Do they have a weight issue?
“At Guardian we really look at endurance and stamina. We look at weight loss and nutrition. We look at all the different factors that could influence health and wellbeing, which in turn has an impact on job satisfaction and performance. We will refer someone to a weight-loss program or suggest a fitness regime to improve their health. We’re here to support and facilitate care through referrals and connections.”
Having a robust return to work program is a “win-win” situation for the employer, employee and the insurer. The employer is retaining their employee and reducing the costs of a replacement. The employee is being cared for and supported through an injury and is able to get back to normality as quickly as possible. Finally, the insurance company also wins because it doesn’t have to pay out such a lengthy and costly claim.
“Everybody benefits!” McAda added.