Stay at work programs are designed to help minimize disruption and boost morale when an accident occurs on the job. But what’s behind the strategy’s success? In this edition of Inside Workers’ Comp, Genex’s Myra Keleher, DNP, RN CDMS, offers insight on the topic she will present at the WCI Conference in Orlando next week.
Tom Kerr (TK): I’m Tom Kerr and today we’re speaking with Myra Keleher who will be part of the Return-to-Work Breakout panel at WCI 2016 in Orlando next week. Myra, thanks for joining us.
Myra Keleher (MK): Thank you for inviting me to talk with you.
TK: I understand you’ll be focusing on stay-at-work programs during your presentation. Could you tell us how these options differ from traditional return-to-work programs?
MK: In traditional workers' comp, when an injured worker reports a claim, usually a case manager or the claims examiner will navigate them through the return-to-work process. In the stay-at-work program, there's a coordinated effort between the employer and the employee, along with the case manager and the adjuster, to have a program available to [the worker] to go back to transactional duty while out on light-duty status, once they've been released by the doctor to go back to work before full duty.
It’s for 90 days total. And at the end of 90 days, if that person has not returned to full duty, then they come off that stay-at-work program and go back into the traditional, out of work, light duty category and the workers’ comp system.
So, it is a financial incentive to everyone. It gets that injured worker back into the job market and feeling like a valued employee, knowing that the employer cares about them and wants them to get well and get back to their regular duties.
TK: So, what are some of the challenges of implementing a stay-at-work program?
MK: A lot of the challenges involve buy in. You've got to have policies and procedures to support this kind of endeavor —making sure everybody is educated on how it works.
There has to be someone responsible, usually in the employer area, of keeping track of who is out of work, when they've been taken out of work, what their salary is, so it can be billed back to the corporate entity and manage the cap on the 90-day eligibility if that's what it is.
TK: OK, so what’s the case manager’s role in this process?
MK: A case manager is basically kind of like a pilot. You have to have someone that's knowledgeable about return to work and able to tell the employer what the physical limitations are — what the doctor has said and not go by what the injured worker says. Because, a lot of times [the worker] will say, "Oh, I have to lift 50 pounds every day,” and that's not quite what is going on in their job.
So, it's important that the case manager is hands-on and able to talk to everybody and make sure everyone's on the same page to get [the worker] back to full duty as soon as possible and as safely as possible.
TK: Thanks, Myra. You can learn more about return-to-work options during Myra’s session at WCI on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
In our next Inside Workers’ Comp, we’ll look at the changing UR regulations in California and what that means to you. Until then, thanks for listening.