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Today's Workers' Comp System Increases Suffering: Fixing the System for Injured Workers

Today's Workers' Comp System Increases Suffering: Fixing the System for Injured Workers

Updated June 21, 2018 Originally published February 23, 2016
Julian Alexander

OSP_-_Todays_Workers_Comp_System_Increases_Suffering-_Fixing_the_System_for_Injured_Workers.jpgFor Americans, our work heavily influences our sense of personal identity. We spend much of our time at work. We develop personal relationships with colleagues. In many ways, we are what we “do.” No wonder injured workers often develop a devastating loss of work identity. So says Roger Aurbach.

Aurbach studies workers’ compensation systems. He recently published an article in WorkersCompensation.com. He says an injured worker may lose the primary basis of their personal identify. The longer the person is out of work, the greater the sense of loss. Aurbach notes, “It has been argued that the need for personal identity is so fundamental that people cannot survive without it.”

He argues that “lost work identity affects relationships both inside and outside of the workplace.” Injured workers no longer have the anchor of their daily work routine. They may feel they have no control over other aspects of their lives, either. 

Traditional Workers’ Comp Processes Increase This Suffering

Aurbach notes the workers’ comp model has narrow goals -- in his words:

  • Fix what ails the worker, if and only if the employer is responsible for the harm.
  • Expect the worker to re-enter the workforce without delay.
  • Provide economic incentives and disincentives, pushing people to return as soon as possible.

It’s all based on distrust. Employers and other players in the claims process focus on controlling the behavior of injured workers. Workers are beholden to all these players. Aurbach says the result is “an increasing trend in secondary psychological injury acquired in the process of treatment and compensation for the original injury.”

Michael Grabell, for ProPublica writes directly about the fall out of workers comp. He states that, "In some states, the cuts have been so drastic that injured workers have plummeted into poverty, losing their cars and even their homes. In others, workers spend years battling insurance companies for the surgeries, prescriptions and basic help their doctors recommend." Tweet this quote.

Workers cannot control their injured body as usual. And they feel like pawns in their recovery process. This double-whammy can set them up for a negative outcome. They may get worse instead of better as they struggle to recover. 

Aurbach says that losing work identify and a sense of control can lead injured workers to:

  • Develop secondary psychological symptoms
  • Disengage from their recovery process and/or their employer
  • Adopt a new persona as a “disabled person”

On-Site Physical Therapy Provides a Unique Fix

At OnSite Physio, we treat injured workers at their place of employment

  • Less time off work, thanks to 9.5 average treatment visits vs 17.1. Treatment is job- and jobsite-specific. Sessions are more relevant because they are devoted to just one worker. That means fewer sessions are needed to reach recovery goals.
  • Greatly improved return-to-work rates – 95% vs 70%. On-site physical therapy boosts compliance and, we believe, motivation.
  • Fewer re-injuries –a tiny 3% vs 18%. During physical therapy sessions, injured workers also learn how to work safer in the future. They return to work knowing how to deliberately avoid injury. They don’t see themselves as “damaged” or “disabled.” Instead they are confident, and that boosts their self-image.

Worker engagement – whether they’ve been injured or not – increases productivity. That directly benefits your bottom line. Workers who are engaged experience greater job satisfaction. That improves retention. When your employees know you care about them, that builds loyalty. For injured workers, this cycle of success starts when you help them retain their work identity throughout their recovery process.National Benchmark Survey - Onsite Physio

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