Healing injured workers
Until recently, Little Rock was spending $1.9 million a year for its workers’ compensation program for 2,200 employees. To control costs, the city developed an injury management program that has improved care for injured employees while saving money.
Previously, supervisors only directed injured employees to a medical facility or emergency room for treatment and reported injuries to the risk management department. Supervisors often erred on the side of caution and sent most injured employees to an emergency room, which resulted in unnecessary medical care and costs. Also, on average, the risk management department received injury reports eight to 10 days after incidents occurred. With those delays, medical and claims costs could quickly spiral out of control.
In 2007, Little Rock contracted with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Company Nurse to use the company’s workers’ compensation injury call center in Denver. Little Rock employees now call a toll-free hotline to report all work-related injuries. There, a nurse evaluates the injury and refers the employee to the most appropriate medical facility within the city’s preferred provider organization. The nurse recommends care based on treatment protocols, algorithms and decision trees that systematically identify courses of treatment. In many cases, nurses will conclude that the most appropriate care is simple first aid. After evaluating the injury, the nurse reports the incident to the risk management department.
The call center compiles injury reports to help city officials identify areas that require safety measures. For example, the center found that public works employees were sustaining injuries during garbage collection, so the city purchased collection vehicles with automated lifting capabilities, which reduced workers’ problems.
With the new program, city officials also wanted employees to return to work faster. Now, departments use “modified duty” to accommodate injured employees’ work restrictions. In some cases, employees work in other departments, where more appropriate transitional assignments are available.
The city’s workers’ compensation costs now total $800,000 annually, which is an average cost reduction of 39 percent per claim and a 70 percent decrease in lost time. Little Rock also received the 2008 Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Exemplary Performance Award for achieving 100 percent on-time reporting.
Workers’ compensation cost reduction
Little Rock, Ark.
Safety & Loss Control Division
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Company Nurse