Risk Insider: David Dubovich

Pooled Resources a Plus for All

By: | December 1, 2014

David Dubovich, a disability case manager at Allina Health, Minneapolis, has 20 years' experience in case management, vocational counseling and job placement. He coordinates and facilitates return to work for employees that are on workers comp/short term or long term disability. He can be reached at [email protected]

A return to work program is one aspect of a successful integrated disability management program. It emphasizes collaboration and multidisciplinary effort to help injured employees return to and stay at work.

The disability management program at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, a part of Allina Health in Minneapolis, was developed over time starting in 1985, when the hospital launched a case management process for worker’s compensation. As a result, Allina recognized a reduction in indemnity costs. But when the organization’s lost work days were piling up not long ago, it was clear it was time for a review of the organization’s return-to-work process.

Jeff Fliss, manager of the hospital’s “float pool” analyzed staffing needs and learned there were valuable resources that could help accomplish projects and other work that needed to be done. The solution: a central scheduling program which expedites the return to work process.

The central scheduling program was implemented to pool resources and ensure that work was getting completed. Fliss partnered with an employee occupational health case manager who is the keeper of the medical documentation and information.

Essentially, the central scheduling program acts as a clearinghouse for the large hospital, pooling resources and employees on light duty. The pooling of resources is set up with a patient flow supervisor who understands the workflow and the needs of units in the hospital on a daily basis.

Employees who have sustained workplace injuries that resulted in temporary or long-term restrictions are directed back to their home unit and placed on transitional duty. If their home department doesn’t have work available, the employee is directed to a house patient flow supervisor who finds work for them across the hospital while in transitional duty.  They also may be assigned to ongoing projects across the hospital as available.

Education was a key piece of the implementation process for the central scheduling program. Extensive training for managers and supervisors was conducted through group meetings, as well as through email and individual meetings. Managers were provided with the steps to help guide injured employees to the appropriate resources to help them stay at work.

Lost Days Plunge

The impact of having a central scheduling program resulted in dramatic drop in lost work days as well as indemnity costs for Abbott Northwestern.

The lost work days for patient care dropped significantly — from 6,560 in 2008 to 898 in 2012. The average claim cost dropped from $29,000 in 2008 to $13,000 in 2012.

These results have been shared throughout the company so that the managers and supervisors utilizing the system could see the remarkable change that occurred by implementing this process, reinforcing the culture of return to work and stay at work.

Abbott Northwestern was able to improve outcomes for injured workers and cut costs dramatically, using existing internal resources and creating a seamless process across workers’ comp and human resources.

While educating and training supervisors and managers is a critical requirement for a successful return-to-work program, sharing the results with them is equally critical for making the program a part of company culture.

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