2016 Teddy Awards: Honorable Mention

Advocating for Injured Workers

By helping employees navigate through the workers' comp system, Cottage Health decreased lost work days by 80 percent.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 3 min read

Cottage Health was having trouble returning injured workers to the job. In 2014, the nonprofit hospital system recorded an all-time high of 1,953 recordable lost days.

In 2016, the three-hospital system in the Central Coast Region in California is on track to reduce that number to 400 – an 80 percent decrease in lost work days.

Advertisement




The health system managed the impressive turnaround by modifying its transitional return to work program, hiring a workers’ compensation case manager and working to educate both managers, employees and medical providers about the opportunities and benefits of returning workers to the job as quickly as possible.

“Keeping somebody engaged at work returns them to their full capacity sooner,” said Angeli Mancuso, manager, employee health and safety at Cottage Health. “There’s a psychological component. When you get used to not working, even two weeks off, sometimes it makes it very difficult to come back.”

Rose Hatmaker, workers’ compensation case manager at Cottage Health, says the health care organization “works as an advocate for the injured workers.”

“It’s a team effort to return injured workers to a productive lifestyle in their position,” she said.

Angeli Mancuso, manager, employee health and safety, Cottage Health

Angeli Mancuso, manager, employee health and safety, Cottage Health

Hatmaker helps employees navigate the workers’ compensation system by directly communicating with occupational health physician partners, expediting physical therapy appointments, discussing treatment plans with physicians and assisting employees with any questions they have related to claims process, handled by third-party administrator Sedgwick.

Hatmaker also put together a job bank that helps her match jobs and abilities within the health system with injured employees.

But the worker advocacy program required pushing our culture forward, said Mancuso.

While she worked with the management team to educate them on the benefits of bringing injured employees back on modified duty, Hatmaker was brought on board in 2015 to work with the employees, physicians and service providers.

Cottage Health uses a tiered return-to-work program that first tries to place injured employees in their home department. If physical limitations make that impossible, employees are assigned to a different department in their own hospital or another in the system. As a last resort, employees are assigned to a nonprofit organization as a volunteer. The last option was added to the program as part of the goal to reduce lost days.

“You can utilize their brain if they are physically unable to do the job.” Angeli Mancuso, manager, employee health and safety, Cottage Health

Use of the modified duty options have had peaks and valleys over the years, said Molly Kellogg, employee health and safety consultant, “but we’ve never had as much buy-in or variety as we do now.”

Mancuso remembered one manager who declined to bring back an injured physical therapist because of limitations. After another therapy department in the hospital agreed to bring the therapist on to speak to patients on the phone, the first manager changed his mind. They ended up sharing the employee’s time, she said.

“You can utilize their brain if they are physically unable to do the job,” Mancuso said.

Cottage Health also, of course, strives to prevent injuries from occurring, and has a robust training program and safety tools to maintain employee health.

A safe-patient handling system is a key part of that, and any new construction or remodeling almost always includes ceiling lifts in all rooms as well as mobile equipment at existing facilities. When the program began in 2009 at a cost of $6 million, there were 41 preventable patient handling injuries. In 2015, there was one.

Advertisement




The health care system also concentrated on its sharp safety program to prevent blood exposure among health care workers. Research at the hospitals revealed that surgical technicians had the highest incidence of needle sticks and other sharps injuries. It had been presumed that resident physicians had the highest rate.

By increasing education, the needle stick rate for surgical technicians decreased from 25 percent in 2014 to 14 percent in 2015.

Cottage Health begins its safety training at new employee initiation sessions and pursues safety awareness at departmental staff meetings. In addition it has a multi-disciplinary committee that includes representatives from many areas throughout the system to focus on “environments of care.” &

_______________________________________________________

Read more about the 2016 Teddy Award winners:

target-150x150Bringing Focus to Broad Challenges: Target brings home a 2016 Teddy Award for serving as an advocate for its workers, pre- and post-injury, across each of its many operations.

 

hrt-150x150The Road to Success: Accountability and collaboration turned Hampton Roads Transit’s legacy workers’ compensation program into a triumph.

 

excela-150x150Improve the Well-Being of Every Life: Excela Health changed the way it treated injuries and took a proactive approach to safety, drastically reducing workers’ comp claims and costs.

 

harder-150x150The Family That’s Safe Together: An unwavering commitment to zero lost time is just one way that Harder Mechanical Contractors protects the lives and livelihoods of its workers.

 

More coverage of the 2016 Teddy Awards:

Recognizing Excellence: The judges of the 2016 Teddy Awards reflect on what they learned, and on the value of awards programs in the workers’ comp space.

Fit for Duty: 2013 Teddy Winner Miami-Dade County Public Schools is managing comorbid risk factors by getting employees excited about healthy living.

Saving Time and Money: Applying Lean Six Sigma to its workers’ comp processes earned Atlantic Health a Teddy Award Honorable Mention.

Caring for the Caregivers: Adventist Health Central Valley Network is achieving stellar results by targeting its toughest challenges.

Advocating for Injured Workers: By helping employees navigate through the workers’ comp system, Cottage Health decreased lost work days by 80 percent.

A Matter of Trust: St. Luke’s workers’ comp program is built upon relationships and a commitment to care for those who care for patients.

Keeping the Results Flowing: R&I recognizes the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for a commonsense approach that’s netting continuous improvement.

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

Advertisement




That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

Advertisement




Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]