Data driven decision-making
Workplace rehabilitation and injury management has always focused on three key performance indicators: return to work outcomes, cost, and duration of cases. The main innovations that have driven improvements and efficiencies have generally been process or program based, such as the shift from passive treatment to activity-based workplace hardening and cognitive behavioural therapy. As the industry matures, continuous improvement becomes more challenging – the easy wins have been identified and addressed. It is becoming clear that the next set of improvements will be driven by informed decision-making based on quality data.
Further, complexities in injury management continue to increase, the need for clear and insightful information drawn from reliable and accurate sources of data is now more vital than ever. Utilising this information is the most effective way to drive improvements.
Demand for quality information that leads to predictive analysis and insights into the most effective injury management strategies has now become as important as return to work outcomes.
For the last decade, Konekt has pursued an aspirational goal to transform workplace rehabilitation from a cottage industry to a highly professional and mature industry that understands and responds to the needs of various stakeholders such as the injured worker, the employer, claims agents and regulators.
The 2013 Konekt Market Report was our first major initiative which aimed to deliver meaningful information and insight about trends and changes in workplace injury. This is an example of how information can be used to confidently determine what drives good, bad or indifferent outcomes in order to become more strategic in injury management decision-making. Some of the key findings were:
- The undisputed link between early referral of cases and improved outcomes and lower rehabilitation costs and durations;
- Injured workers that spend less time in the workers compensation system have improved return to work and health outcomes;
- Outcomes from non-compensation referrals are markedly better than outcomes from compensation referrals, with the key driver being early referral for rehabilitation services from the onset or reporting of symptoms;
- There are almost three times more referrals for non-compensation cases with psychological symptoms than in the compensation system, which points to the fact that regulators and actuaries may not be considering the full flow-through cost of psychological injury in compensation schemes.
Injury management has become more challenging as the workplace environment increasingly takes on the burden of chronic health caused by poor lifestyle choices, an ageing workforce, shifts in the way people are employed and the rising incidence of psychological illness and injury. It is imperative to identify trends that lead to complex and stuck cases before they manifest. Ultimately, this comes back to having a rich data source to draw upon and being able to demonstrate through analysis and interpretation new insights that will lead to targeted injury management strategies.
For example, analysis of over 1,500 cases of one major customer has enabled Konekt to identify the exact demographic of employees with the poorest return to work outcome. The capability to compare data in terms of gender, age, tenure, job role and division is used as a filter against such metrics as delay to referral, return to work rate, cost and duration of rehabilitation. This leads to targeted early intervention strategies and awareness of emerging issues in terms of workforce health. It also enables this customer to allocate resources appropriately, leading to new levels of efficiency and confidence in their injury management programs.
Another contributing factor that reduces the measureable success of rehabilitation and return to work outcomes is the way in which the industry measures success in the first place. Rehabilitation providers have commonly reported outcomes in terms of cost, duration and the percentage of cases that return to work. However, having access to information and business intelligence through technology has enabled our customers to consider new ways to measure these outcomes. One example is a matrix-style reporting model that has the capacity to measure return to work outcomes in the number of progressions through the return to work hierarchy.
Such quantified reporting provides greater insight into success rates, such as the ability to identify cases that progress from unfitness to reduced capacity, and from reduced capacity to full pre-injury duties. When this data is analysed against a range of employee and workplace demographics, a very powerful set of performance measures emerge.
Employers benefit from having access to truly sophisticated digital reporting as injury management is compelled to enter the information age. One strategy will be to anticipate the likely potential for a return to work outcome, as well as cost and duration upon referral. This will be achieved through predictive technologies that triage and classify cases at the time of referral on the basis of job role, injury type and length of time off work. This provides an informed case for early referrals, to help referrers justify rehabilitation spend and to provide insights based on big data.
Another important factor to consider is how information moves through the various phases of the Workplace Health Lifecycle (see figure below).
Konekt is exploring how to connect the various stages of this workplace health lifecycle. By looking at data collected at different stages, from Konekt’s referral portal, through our incident management software Konektiva Live and our pre-employment software JobScreen™ our vision is to assess risk more broadly. By tracking an employee through the various stages of pre-employment, early symptoms and absenteeism trends right through to injury management outcomes, we are investigating the provision of broader health data to our customers. One example of this would be through an employee’s health record when they complete a JobScreen™ candidate questionnaire and a comparison with that employee’s return to work and injury management outcomes in the event they were injured at work. By modelling referrals against a broader and richer data set, Konekt can consider how to predict the likelihood of a return to work outcome against a benchmark of similar employee cohorts.
In conclusion, no single or isolated solution in its own right will transform and improve return to work rates for injured workers. Konekt’s strategy is to present compelling evidence of a holistic model that is able to provide keen insight throughout the entire lifecycle of employee health and to work proactively with our customers through an end-to-end solution. Our commitment to developing best-in-breed technology to underpin these strategies has been long-standing and our vision remains to be the leader in workplace health solutions to benefit all stakeholders.