By Becky Bro, M.Ed, CRC, National Director Vocational and Disability Services
Return-To-Work Stats and What They Mean
Did you know that millions of American workers who develop serious health problems or face work-place injuries every year are able to stay at work or return to work after a brief recovery period? However, approximately 1 in 10 of these sick and injured workers will experience a prolonged or permanent absence from the workforce due to their ailment. Although many of these prolonged absences begin as a very common health problem such as a musculoskeletal pain disability, they often end in unexpectedly poor outcomes, including job loss.
Physical Disabilities are Stressful
Research shows that individuals diagnosed with a physical disability often experience depression and anxiety. In a study of 1,595 patients with a chronic musculoskeletal pain disability, 64 percent had a psychological diagnosis. When pain disorder is included in the analysis, the occurrence of a psychological condition jumps to 99 percent, with the most prominent conditions being depression, anxiety and substance abuse. When compared to the 15 percent that is expected from a comparable general population study, these findings are significant. The authors of this study determined that the stress linked with a chronic pain condition is a key factor in understanding the high rates of psychological problems among this group.
Work Culture Matters
Creating a work culture that focuses on providing Stay at Work and Return to Work solutions can help to prevent or minimize the negative impacts that can be expected from poor return to work outcomes. To be most effective, planning and policy creation, written to help to move the culture in this direction should begin before an injury or illness occurs. In fact, many employers are discovering that preventing prolonged and unnecessary workplace absence includes incorporating proactive screenings with a focus on wellness and behavioral health as well as to provide integrated disability management services that are specifically designed to work cooperatively and facilitate early intervention strategies when absences from the workplace cannot be avoided.
Early Intervention Drives Successful Outcomes
When unavoidable sickness or injury related absences do occur, these employers understand that early intervention and proactive case management including regular and ongoing return to work discussions with the employee, the employer, the insurance company and the treating providers is key in developing creative solutions tailored to an employee’s unique condition, which is often essential and necessary for creating positive return to work outcomes, successfully managing costs and minimizing the impact of an extended absence from the workplace.
Focus on What Can Be Done
At ExamWorks Clinical Solutions we are focused on what can be done to help achieve successful outcomes and are committed to working with all stakeholders while moving towards this often challenging goal. If you have any questions about our case management services or Stay at Work and Return to Work consulting services please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Becky Bro
Becky Bro, M.Ed., CRC is the National Director of Vocational and Disability Services for ExamWorks Clinical Solutions. Becky works with customers to create program models that integrate disability and absence management programs to align with corporate structures and cultures to reduce the impact of lost work days. She is a certified rehabilitation counselor with 15 years of experience working in the disability services and worker’s compensation arena. Becky spent several years working in the financial services industry as a financial analyst, auditor, financial services manager, and consultant. She holds a Master’s degree in Higher Counselor Education from Ohio University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Brigham Young University.
Becky may be reached at 304-699-8890 or via email at email@example.com
 Dersh, J. et al. Prevalence of psychiatric disorders in patients with chronic work-related musculoskeletal pain disability. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. May 2002; 44 (5) 459-468.