Claims Trends

Frequency Down, Severity Up for Health Care Worker Claims

The injury/illness rate for hospital workers is alarmingly high — higher even than in construction and manufacturing.
By: | February 2, 2015

While claim frequency is steadily decreasing by 1 percent, severity is increasing by 2 percent among health care workers. That’s according to a report on workers’ comp trends within the health care industry.

The AON Risk Solutions’ second Health Care Workers Compensation Barometer comes as the injury and illness rate for hospital workers is nearly twice that for private industry as a whole, according to OSHA statistics. Even though it is decreasing, the injury/illness rate for hospital workers is also higher than it is in construction and manufacturing.

“For the 2015 accident year, we project health care systems will experience an annual loss rate of $0.75 per $100 of payroll,” the report said. “We project that loss rates are increasing at a 1 percent annual rate.”

The company surveyed 44 health care systems representing 1,150 medical facilities throughout the country.

While the authors blamed “continued inflationary trend” for the steady increase in claim severity, they cited several reasons for the continued drop in claim frequency.

“Our survey results showed that 74 percent of the survey respondents have a formal safe patient handling program,” it said. “This, coupled with ‘no manual lift’ policies, ergonomics training, and effective safety committees, has enhanced the overall environment of the workplace, keeping it safer and keeping employees injury-free.”

Patient management, including handling and lifting, was cited as the top concern for health care risk managers surveyed and accounted for one-third of all claims. It also was identified as having the highest average indemnity payment of all causes of loss. Slip/trip/falls and push/pull injuries were noted as the second and third most costly indemnity payments.

Materials handling, including needle sticks and hazardous exposures, was the second highest rated concern. Within the Ebola pandemic, the authors said they would expect materials handling to rise to the top concern soon.

“Materials handling has a small average indemnity paid (relative to other causes of loss),” the report noted, “but the frequency of these types of claims appear to be on the rise in our database, when compared to the 2012 Aon Health Care Workers Compensation Barometer.”

Home Health Risks

Home health had the highest average indemnity payment of the departments profiled with home health care aides having the highest average indemnity payments among occupation types analyzed. “This is potentially driven by patient handling and higher exposure to automobile accidents,” according to the report.

“The second most costly occupation is Central Supply Clerk,” the report said. “This type of employee is responsible for receiving and shipping of supplies, which can involve heavy lifting and maneuvering of shipments.”

Virtually all survey respondents pre-screen employees; most use drug testing and ergonomics testing. About half do a physical capabilities test while few do psychological testing.

Among 11 states profiled in the report, California had the highest projected loss rate for 2015 at $2.18; Tennessee had the lowest at $0.48.

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected].

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