How to Mitigate Risk of Opioids in Workers’ Compensation

Workers' Compensation Claims and Cost |
Written by Rainene Miller

Opioid prescriptions have drastically increased over the years, while raising concerns due to the number of deaths related to opioid use as well as the negative impacts on workers’ compensation claims. Over a long-term period, it can be easy for people to become dependent on these drugs. The primary concerns of employers and insurance companies are the increased costs resulting from opioid use, including increased absenteeism, increased healthcare costs, risk of workplace injury and violence, and increased employee turnover. According to the New York Times, workplace insurers spend approximately $1.4 billion annually on opioid medications. It’s important for employers to discuss ways to prevent increased opioid use and to reduce costs. Here are several strategies employers can discuss to help mitigate opioid risk in workers’ compensation.

Utilization Reviews

An employer or insurance carrier can evaluate proposed medical treatment and determine whether the treatment is appropriate. This can be done using up to date, evidence based literature and based on medical history of the patient. All of this information can be used to assess the risk-benefit analysis of opioid treatment for an individual, and whether or not that individual would benefit from opioids.

Many companies and organizations are using risk mitigation and stratification tools such as algorithms and predictive health screens to assess a worker’s risk for dependency. These individuals are then directed to alternate treatments such as over-the-counter drugs, physical therapy, and mental health counseling instead of prescription opioids.

Pharmacy Benefits Management Programs (PBM)

Employers and insurance carriers can partner with pharmacy benefits managers to monitor patient treatment. Pharmacy benefits managers assist with prescription selection by physicians, enabling them to identify non-opioid alternatives if needed. PBMs can also advise patients on the risks of opioids and identify signs of misuse or overuse.

Early Intervention Therapy

One of the best things you can do as an employer to prevent an increase in opioid use is to use early intervention therapies, such as immediate manual therapy to help alleviate pain without opioid use and prevent further injury. At DORN, our comprehensive PainFree™ treatment programs offer early intervention treatment for pain as well as practical pain mitigation. Our results average a 42% decrease in medication use.

Educating Employees

Employers should provide every employee with information about the risks of the misuse of opioids. Education on the negative effects of opioid misuse can help prevent opioid abuse after an injury. Employers and insurance carriers can also intervene if an injured worker is at risk for misuse, and provide access to counseling or information on drug rehabilitation. Additionally, creating a tolerant, understanding work environment makes it more likely that workers will feel comfortable seeking assistance.

The workers’ compensation industry has made positive progress to reduce opioid usage and continues to revisit the impact it is having on the system. Given the potential for opioid related complications in workers’ compensation claims that result in a huge amount of costs, it is essential that employers have a strategy in place for mitigating risks associated with opioid use.


Mitigating the Effects of Opioid Use Among Workers by Emily Kuhl, PhD Download:

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About the Author

Rainene Miller

VP of Operations and Clinical Lead at DORN Companies
Rainene is a certified massage therapist, VP of Operations and Clinical Lead at DORN with over 15 years of experience. Rainene oversees all of DORN’s therapists to ensure the delivery of the highest level of quality care and helps to develop cutting-edge healthcare solutions.
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