The injury management and rehabilitation industry has evolved in leaps and bounds over the past twenty years. Whilst many organisations have developed innovative solutions for returning workers after injury, experts and market leaders agree unanimously on one thing: early intervention is considered to be the most effective strategy in the entire injury lifecycle.
There are two major interpretations of early intervention. The first model, implemented by 90% of businesses, is a reactive strategy which kicks into gear when a workers’ compensation claim is either imminent or in the process of being lodged. This is the ‘Red Line’ reactive model (see below). The problem with this approach is that by the time a claim has been made, the original issue that sparked the claim is often many weeks old and it is already too late to be truly effective.
While the vast majority of employers are tightly controlled by the claims and liability process, 10% of corporates are adopting an earlier intervention model. This is the ‘Green Line’ Prevention model (see below) that has one major objective: to manage and prevent issues from becoming workers’ compensation claims in the first place.
Unequivocally, earlier intervention means higher employee engagement, lower risk and lower costs. The Australian market has never been more challenging for business. In a post Global Financial Crisis (GFC) economy, the high Australian dollar has impacted export prices, creating much tighter competition and falling margins. For many insured companies, rising workers’ compensation premiums are simply unacceptable and unmanageable. Many larger businesses pay more in premiums than they do on the cost of claims – a single dollar spent on a claim can cost more than ten dollars over three to five years. Therefore, the need to prevent claims is an essential business strategy.
In the ‘Green Line’ prevention phase, the absolute earliest indicators of an injury or condition activate a pre-defined strategy regardless of whether or not the worker has a work related or non-work related condition. In this form, early intervention may result in an ergonomic or workplace assessment, counselling, mediation, medical treatment or task-specific training and awareness activities.
The employee’s need to consider lodging a claim is often negated completely. For the employer, three important things have occurred:
- The worker has received a high level of care, because people are valued above everything else.
- Workforce participation has been maintained through constant productivity.
- The organisation has spent less on claims and controlled profitability.
The ‘Green Line’ preventative strategy requires businesses to invest in discreet services, training, awareness, systems, technology and processes. However, the level of investment will strongly influence the future expenditure on claims.
Building a world class earlier intervention strategy has never been more imperative in the modern workplace. Businesses will continue to face new and complex challenges at a time when job demands are high and worker resilience is low. The ‘Red Line’ reactive model of managing claims rather than people will likely not be enough to deal with these challenges impacting the future workplace.