by Dell Dorn
2015 has seen some significant advances in the workers’ compensation world. Many of the new and developing trends will continue to evolve as we move into the New Year, and they will play an important role for employers and employees alike.
The Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference, held in August 2015, highlighted many of the year’s changes and progressions. The main focuses centered on quality care for injured workers, implementing wellness programs, and improving return-to-work programs. 2015 saw a shift from networks emphasizing discounts and penetration to, instead, quality care and outcomes received by injured workers. The business model now focuses on providers that deliver the best outcomes for injured workers, and so far, the outcomes have been very favorable.
Focuses in the workers’ compensation system are shifting to quality care for injured workers, implementing wellness programs, and improving return-to-work programs.
The Affordable Care Act is also making big impacts on workers’ compensation. There is the concern that the ACA will lead to more cost-shifting from group health to workers’ compensation, however the biggest benefits come from the new emphasis on wellness incentives. Employers are increasingly implementing wellness programs that will ultimately lead to a healthier workforce – and thus benefiting workers’ compensation.
2015 has also seen much talk about improving return-to-work programs. Organizations need to plan for injured workers to have a safe return to work, and they should promote collaboration and partnership with the injured worker. Return-to-work programs need to be flexible and customized to each employee, and they must be consistently revisited and re-evaluated every year.
There has also been more concentration on education for pain management in 2015. Opioid use has decreased, and it will be important to continue this trend with pain management education and better understanding of how narcotics and opioids affect injured workers.
2015 has seen more concentration on education for pain management.
In fall 2015, NIOSH launched the National Center for Productive Aging and Work (NCPAW), a virtual center the focuses on the safety and well being of workers of all ages. Its mission is to develop a research plan for improving the safety and health of workers of all ages, facilitate collaboration among researchers and partners, develop new interventions, and highlight best practices for aging workplaces.
Looking to the future, these programs and many more will see more advancements in the coming years. Industry bloggers expect workers’ comp to be one third smaller than today in the next ten years. Doctors will likely be more involved, with more qualified providers coming in much sooner, and overall the lines may blur between healthcare and workers’ compensation.
As we get ready for what 2016 holds for us in terms of the ever-evolving workers’ compensation system, we can look forward to the continuing improvements for health and safety in the workplace.