Despite some promising reports in the battle against opioid abuse and misuse among injured workers, the problem is far from over. Recent research from the California Workers Compensation Institute, the Workers Compensation Research Institute, and drug trend reports from several pharmacy benefit managers indicate the number of opioid prescriptions written for injured workers is declining — at least, in some areas. However, opioids continue to ruin lives and cause hardships to businesses.
As Joseph Paduda of Health Strategy Associates and CompPharma said in a recent ManagedCareMatters blog, “We’re at the end of the beginning of the work to address opioids. This will take focus, years, diligence, and unrelenting focus.”
In addition to the human toll the drugs take on injured workers, a new report also shows the financial impact of opioids. It says medical services for people with opioid dependence diagnoses rose more than 3,000 percent from 2007 to 2014.
Add to that the potential for lawsuits. The National Safety Council tells us that “appellate courts in four states have held that employers, and insurers, are financially accountable for overdose deaths tied to injured workers.”
The emphasis is now on opioid addiction prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s newly released guidelines for doctors warn against unnecessarily prescribing opioids. The goal is to reduce over-prescribing and to encourage doctors to choose other treatment options for patients with chronic pain. Opioids often don’t work for that anyway, according to University of Washington’s Gary M. Franklin. He says, “There is no evidence supporting the use of opioids for non-specific musculoskeletal conditions.”
Focus should be on physical therapy
Healthcare giant Concentra says emergency rooms admit more than 1,000 people a day for opioid drug misuse. It’s a deadly trend. “One area where severe musculoskeletal and other serious injuries are common is within the workers’ compensation system,” they note. “There are millions of work-related injuries every year, and many of these leave patients with chronic pain or disability.” In the past, doctors have prescribed strong pain-relievers and bed rest.
“Early intervention therapy is seen as one of the best alternatives to bed rest and opioid prescriptions,” Concentra notes. “This approach utilizes immediate physical therapy to increase mobility and reduce healing times. By focusing on functional recovery, patients are less likely to develop chronic pain that requires prescription opioid pain medication.”
On-site physical therapy literally gets injured workers moving faster toward recovery. Working one-on-one with patients, the physical therapist can teach them how to move safer in the future. That can help lessen chronic pain. And it reduces the risk of future injury. Offering physical therapy right at the jobsite boosts compliance. It’s more convenient, and more effective. The therapist schedules sessions directly with the injured worker. And the entire session is devoted to that individual.
That’s why on-site physical therapy has proven to be effective across many industries:
One Case Manager for a large national non-profit described his organization’s experience: “With PhysNet, you will see better functional outcomes, faster return to work statistics, decreased indemnity cost and lost time days.”
Early intervention and on-site physical therapy promote faster recovery. That’s a significant step toward opioid addiction prevention. But as a workers’ comp professional, you can do even more:
And closely monitor claims for evidence of over-prescription. That includes types of drugs. The amounts prescribed. And multiple prescriptions, especially from multiple doctors.
Locate one of our nationwide OnSite Physio therapists now.