Quit Herding Cats & Improve Your Return to Work Program

How to Improve Your Return to Work Program

Programs aimed at returning employees to work are oftentimes scattered in multiple departments and isolated by the type of employee absence. One department manages workers’ compensation, another manages disability claims, and your HR team manages FMLA absences, or it’s outsourced to a third party. Efforts to coordinate and integrate all of the data are oftentimes met with resistance because of these departmental “territories.” Unfortunately, those interested in collaboration often feel like they’re trying to herd a bunch of stray cats.

There are clear financial gains that can be summarized from integrating your data. When you collect, organize, and analyze your information you can begin to identify actionable trends. Not everyone experiences the same results; not everyone knows where to start. One way to collect the cats, besides catnip, begins with partnering with a data warehouse vendor who will do the collection for you. Pass the buck to them so you can focus on your day-to-day work and they can project manage the construction of your data warehouse. Once your data warehouse is built, here are a few things to look at:

The full benefit picture of your leaves from start to finish

Integrating different absence data allows you to gain a complete view of an absence from start to finish. You can see the course of the absence as it traverses from FMLA, short term disability, and workers’ compensation pathways and sometimes transitions to long-term disability. Integrated reporting can find relationships between FMLA absences and short term disability experiences. LTD flow through analyses can pinpoint rising trends in claim progression. These types of reports provide insight on missed management opportunities and chances to improve both return to work (RTW) and stay at work programs.

Your top ten costs/lost productivity drivers

Look across your FMLA, workers’ compensations and disability data and identify the ten most common reasons why employees are taking a leave of absence. Previous workplace injuries are a key predictor of future events. Consequently, understanding the most common injuries for particular work locations will help you identify any workplace modifications that need to be put in place to help mitigate that risk. Having knowledge of the top disabilities allows you to customize health contingent wellness programs so that they maximize the ability to promote health and prevent disease. Also, analyzing FMLA usage might identify whether certain departments or employee groups have a greater tendency toward intermittent versus continuous FMLA.

Gain the ability to interact with your structured and unstructured data

Partner with a data warehouse vendor that can assist you in seeing summarized information with all of your integrated claims data – including not just payments and diagnoses but notes and medical documentation as well. Historically, only structured data like claims data and data from HRIS systems was available for reporting. But, now data commonly thought of as unstructured is becoming more common. This type of data includes notes from physicians and nurses and provides further detail on procedures, next office visits and work restrictions. Having this type of unstructured data available strengthens your ability to manage your RTW process and have a better handle on leave management.

These points are certainly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to analyzing your integrated leave data in order to improve your return to work efforts. And, make sure you’re selective in which partner you choose as your data warehouse vendor and confirm that they’ll do the coordination for you.

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Rene Gates

Rene Gates is the Executive Vice President at Optis where she leads the organization’s product development, customer service, account management, and operations team. She specializes in software development within the employee benefits and risk management industry, and focuses her attention on driving company-wide improvement initiatives to ensure that Optis’ solutions continue to evolve and deliver maximum value and service to Optis’ customers. Connect with Rene.


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