Injured workers often feel lost in the complex workers’ compensation benefit delivery systems. Difficult to understand, these systems leave injured workers confused, disbelieved and disrespected, which feeds a sense of hopelessness and abandonment. This can potentially contribute to the development or instigation of chronic pain perceptions and a poor outcome.
There are five key practices for a patient-centered approach that, when quickly addressed, are most effective in mitigating potential chronic pain issues in workers’ compensation. The first four are: determining compensability; communicating the claims process and status to the injured worker; providing quality, evidence-based medical care; and identifying delayed recovery factors. Perhaps the most important practice is working with the doctor and employer to encourage stay-at-work (SAW) and return-to-work (RTW), even when that requires modified duties.
Prompt communication among the healthcare provider, patient, employer and any other stakeholder to expedite treatments for the employee to return to full functionality and work will lead to the best outcome.