This is a slightly different Friday Five. I’m not going to post a check of what is new in the research in the areas of ergonomics and safety. This week will be a quick recap of what I think were five important takeaways from the conference that I attended yesterday – “Everything You Wanted To Know About New Jersey Workers Compensation” which was hosted by John Geaney from Capehart Scatchard and Millenium Seminars. If you aren’t following John’s blog on workers compensation, you should be.
“Recovery on the job” – Trudy Mandia from AtlantiCare
I tweeted about this yesterday. I hate the term “light duty”. So many people get wrapped up with the word light with a lot getting it confused with the term “light work” which is considered to be a job with an occasional lift, push, pull, carry demand of 20 pounds. Everyone tends to get wrapped up on the restrictions on an individual when they hear “light duty”. Over the years, I have been on a mission to reframe the term as modified duty which is not so wrapped up in the restrictions on demands. But, I love the term that Trudy talked about from AtlantiCare’s standpoint. They no longer use the term light duty and have replaced it with “Recovery on the job” with the focus being on an individual’s current abilities and not focusing on what they can not currently do.
“Make sure that it isn’t boxes just being clicked”
Dr. Dwyer from Premier Orthopedics mentioned the reminder that with so many medical records being generated by different EMR packages, sometimes practitioners can end up clicking through. Make sure that the physicians and therapists are being accurate when they are completing medical records in an EMR system and that they are also indicating both active and passive range of motion of the injured body part at all visits.
“Make sure that your employees know how long light duty will last”
This topic came up across multiple discussions through out the day because it is that important. This is something that we tell clients that we meet with when we are talking about both regular job descriptions and tasks that might be available for modified duty. Leaving an employee in a modified duty position for an indeterminate length makes some employees want to remain in that position for the remainder of their employment and also makes it easy to argue that the “modified duty position” is essential if an employee is left in that position for a prolonged duration of time.
Another topic that was mentioned several times because as John said yesterday, good job descriptions are the building block for creating a workers compensation program. I’ve written about customized job descriptions multiple times on this blog, but members of yesterday’s panels provided reminders that good, solid, accurate job descriptions allow:
- The physicians and physical therapists do their jobs to get the injured employee back to the essential demands of the position.
- Allow physicians, employers, and case managers to possibly get an injured employee on modified duty when it becomes appropriate and helps to allow for progression of modified duty over the treatment timeline
- Is necessary for having an effective interactive dialogue when the issues of accommodations comes up.
- Need to accurately reflect current essential postural and physical tasks that are performed.
The issue of communication came up in several panel discussions during the day. Communication between the employer, the case manager, the physician, the physical therapist, and the employee is key in moving towards a successful end state for an injury claim.
- I was glad to hear that having a bilingual staff member to help with the communications process with injured workers at the Tropicana has made a big improvement in their program. I know that in the provision of FCEs, we have been grateful when a translator has been provided if a claimant does not speak English but provision of a translator is not a common occurence. Having a translator can make things go much easier and quicker when everyone is on the same page.
- Make sure that you communicate your modified duty program guidelines to your injured employee when it is offered and put it in writing. This helps to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
This is just a small sampling of some of the important topics that were discussed during the course of the day. These one day conferences are a great opportunity to learn from the speakers, the attendees as they ask questions/make comments, and during the breaks to learn from the vendors and the attendees.
(A photo I took during a previous conference in Atlantic City but yesterday’s weather conditions were similar)