The Psychological and Social Impact of Work-Related Injuries
A personalized approach to helping injured employees that goes beyond physical issues can help reduce costs, save time and improve the path to recovery. Looking at psychological and social factors affecting an individual can help identify potential challenges, such as anxiety or fear of reinjury, that may delay an employee’s return to work.
“Delayed recovery is not always a factor of the severity of the injury,” said Rich Ives, Vice President, Workers Compensation Claim at Travelers. “We need to consider other issues in injured employees’ lives to better help them overcome these potential barriers.”
Preventing delayed recovery from workplace injuries can help employees avoid a long-term break from employment. Worklessness is associated with a host of negative health consequences, including poor health outcomes, increased risk of mental health conditions and decreased life expectancy. Helping injured employees reduce the risks of worklessness has benefits for the employee, their employer and the community.
“Worklessness is not just a financial or a social issue, it’s a health and wellness issue,” said Ives, “There are fairly serious health consequences of not feeling productive and engaged in the community.”
When talking with an employer, Travelers Claim professionals discuss the importance of maintaining contact with the injured employee, checking on how they are feeling and setting up a modified duty program as they recover. By focusing on what they can do, rather than their pain or limitations, conversations about returning to work can help injured employees stay engaged and look forward. “It can go a long way to helping influence a positive mindset to reduce the fear and isolation that they may be feeling as a result of their injury,” Ives said.
Psychosocial Risk Factors
Increased empathy and active listening can help establish a connection with an injured employee and help uncover factors that might delay their return to work. These could include fear of losing a job or being treated unfairly or differently because they’ve had an injury.
“Fear is a powerful risk factor, and a barrier to returning to work that we need to help reduce,” Ives said. “We need to remember that the employee at the other end of the phone might have any number of fears.”
Ives describes three psychosocial factors that can complicate recovery. Identifying them can help Claim professionals find the right resources to help injured employees.
- Catastrophic thinking. If an injured employee expects the worst-case scenario to happen, it can take over his thinking. For example, he may believe that his back injury will lead to him losing his job and becoming homeless.
- Perceived injustice. An injured employee may feel that someone or something else caused her misfortune, whether or not the facts support that belief.
- Maladaptive coping. An individual off work for several months due to an injury, who lacks certain adaptive skills, such as optimism, resilience or goal-setting, might need help keeping a schedule during their transition back to work.
Removing Barriers to Recovery
Here are three ways that Travelers is helping to understand the whole person, identify potential barriers and help employees develop strategies to recovery and return to work.
1. Building Connections: The Virtual Concierge Service
Fear of pain or getting reinjured could keep an injured construction worker from practicing the physical therapy exercises prescribed to help him recover his full range of motion. While not directly related to his injury, that fear-caused avoidance could lead to a deconditioning of muscle tone and a loss of range of motion. This could further complicate his recovery and, as a result, threaten his ability to return to work.
Working with a dedicated nurse case manager can help injured workers have a one-on-one connection between nurse and patient. Travelers virtual concierge service includes virtual visits and coaching to help injured employees understand what to expect from medical treatment as they recover from their injury, and discuss potential fears that they might have. Injured employees who work with Travelers’ ConciergeCLAIM nurses are 86% less likely to seek attorney involvement and they return to work faster than other injured workers.1
2. Cultural Understanding: Travelers Cultural Advantage
Navigating the healthcare system can be challenging. Cultural and language barriers can complicate an employee’s recovery. An injured employee might be having trouble communicating with a doctor using a second language and this, which among other things, could lead to missed medical appointments, misunderstanding treatment guidelines and ultimately a delayed recovery.
Travelers Cultural Advantage bridges language barriers through the claims process by staffing culturally aligned professionals in Claim and Risk Control, including medical professionals, who can answer questions from injured employees and our customers.
3. Proactively Engaging: The Early Severity Predictor®
Chronic pain claims have become more prevalent in recent years, with an estimated 50 million American adults suffering from chronic pain.2 Knowing the signs that indicate someone may be at risk to develop chronic pain means steps can be taken in advance to help injured employees avoid the dangers of opioid addiction. This, in turn, can help companies reduce growing workers compensation loss costs.
The Travelers Early Severity Predictor is a predictive model that can identify in advance whether an injured employee is likely to develop chronic pain. This allows Travelers’ nurses to intervene early, working with individuals on a sports medicine-like approach to treat their illness and help reduce the likelihood that they will be prescribed opioid drugs. Opioids are linked to addiction and can delay recovery and an employee’s return to work.
Working With Travelers
Travelers helps injured employees return to work sooner with the ConciergeCLAIM Nurse program, which reduces days out of work by 35%3 and works with companies to manage their workers compensation claims to protect their business. Talk to an agent today.
1 Based on a comparison of Travelers ConciergeCLAIM Nurse claims to non-ConciergeCLAIM Nurse claims for accident years 2013 to 2016.
3 Based on a comparison of Travelers ConciergeCLAIM Nurse claims to non-ConciergeCLAIM Nurse claims for accident years 2013 to 2016.
More Prepare & Prevent
Employers need to protect the physical safety of employees returning to work, as well as the emotional and social health.
Creating a safety culture in the workplace can help keep employees safe and prevent workplace accidents.