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Prove that thousands of dollars were saved
'Dollars talk,' especially in today's economy
Getting more involved in workers' comp is your "chance to show cost savings to upper management," says Moniaree Parker Jones, RN, MSN, COHN-S, CCM, formerly a senior occupational health nurse in the Alabama/Mississippi regional office of State Farm Insurance Co.
"The occupational health nurse, after all, is probably the one person most familiar with the worker's health. This fact alone makes all the difference in worker care," says Jones. "He or she is also the best resource for objective case management."
Although you save the company money every day — sometimes significant amounts — you might fail to "put it on paper and show it to the right people," says Jones. "This one area of documentation could save jobs, possibly even the occupational health nurse's job. It is time nurses become better at documenting what they do. Otherwise it may go unnoticed or someone else will take the credit."
Worker becomes pain-free
Jones recalls a case involving a man who had sliced off the tip of his finger in an on-the-job accident. "He had seen the company orthopedist and reached Maximum Medical Improvement, as far as his employer and orthopedist were concerned," says Jones. "The problem was, he could hardly turn the pages of a book without pain. I decided to have this man see a plastic surgeon for a second opinion."
The plastic surgeon felt that the exposed nerve endings were causing the man's pain, which would require a skin graft over the tip of the injured finger. The surgery was performed, and the man's finger became pain-free.
"This allowed him to return to his previous job and live a life not of modified duty or one with constant pain," says Jones. "This one case management action saved the company the loss of a good employee, as well as multiple payments for lost work time wages from the inability to do his trained job. The company did not have to spend thousands of dollars training another individual."
Most of the time, your skills are not known to management, says Jones. "Many employers really don't have an adequate understanding of what we truly are capable of doing for the company," she says. "Dollars talk, and even more so in today's economy."
To demonstrate cost savings, Jones recommends:
• Track the number of employees coming to you for care.
If employees would have required a physician visit without occupational health services, compute this cost savings, says Jones.
• Act as the case manager for injured workers.
"Ensure that the company provides cost-effective occupational case management for the employee," says Jones.
She recommends negotiating prices for care such as functional capacity evaluations, durable medical equipment, and therapy. Compare these prices to regular rates, and take credit for the cost savings, Jones advises.
• Work with the physician and employer to get the employee back to work or modified duty.
Calculate the number of lost time days saved, as a result of your understanding the medical condition and jobs available for modification purposes. "We know that prompt referrals also save on return-to-work time," says Jones.
• Show "before and after" results for programs.
Jones once created a report showing the decrease in heat stroke or heat exhaustion cases due to offering employees fruit, energy electrolyte drinks, or popsicles during the summer. "The reduction showed the program should continue and was of benefit," she says.
• Confidentially inform management of critical issues.
Employees often feel comfortable speaking to the occupational health nurse or physician because they know the information is confidential, says Jones, and this dialogue sometimes can result in cost savings.
"I remember an anonymous employee reporting that marijuana was being smoked on the night shift on the top deck of a chemical plant," she says. "This valuable information led to drug screening at night and the avoidance of a potential nightmare."
Include information like this in your reports to management. "Just because a report is not expected does not mean you cannot create a memo to the right people summarizing the month or year's events regarding the department," says Jones.