How to Prevent Negative Treatment Outcomes for Injured Workers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. employers reported 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2016. In addition, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries during the same year, the highest recorded rate since 2010.

No one wants on-the-job injuries or illnesses to occur in the first place. But when they do, it is imperative that the worker return to his or her job as soon as possible. Once an injury has occurred, the course of treatment that is followed will ultimately lead to a positive or negative outcome. Preventing negative treatment outcomes is just as important as preventing on-the-job injuries.

Workplace injury prevention programs typically focus on three strategies.

  1. Proper training
  2. Awareness
  3. Safety protocols.

These same protocols should be used to prevent negative treatment outcomes. Furthermore, if the treatment process was mapped out, several gaps in care that could affect outcomes would be revealed. One such major gap in care for many patients relates to the opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 1 in 4 patients that receive opioid medications for a long period of time end up struggling with addiction. Furthermore, overdoses from prescription opioids are a significant factor in the 15-year steady increase of deaths that can be attributed to opioid overdose.

Opioids are a valuable tool for managing acute, intense pain. They can certainly help an injured worker get through the most painful part of the healing process and onto the road to recovery. But this highly addictive therapy also has the potential to lead to drug dependency and, in many cases, death. On average, 115 Americans die from opioid overdose every day.

Recent initiatives have focused on improving access to care for those who are addicted to opioids as well as expanding the use of naloxone as a rapid reversal to opioid overdose. While these are important strategies will help save lives, it is clear that a multifaceted approach is needed to protect injured workers that are struggling with overusing opioids and other narcotics. Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) care teams organized by workers’ compensation specialists can help to influence the care an injured worker receives.

The role of the pharmacist is another underutilized resource that can instrumental as a treatment team member. Pharmacists’ are experts in medication and they have the ability to contribute to integrated teams by detecting and resolving or preventing drug-related issues. They are in the position to ensure the safe use of medications as well as provide comprehensive information to patients and other health care professionals.

Dispensing pharmacists need to be on the front lines of addressing prescription opioid abuse and overdose. They need to be a member of the Worker’s Compensation PBM that works together to develop specific solutions focused on opioid-related problems, such as team review processes, education of injured workers and communication facilitation with medical doctors. This integrated team approach, with a focus on prevention, can be a positive step in the long journey to address negative treatment outcomes.

Contact our health care insurance specialists to learn more about our innovative programs and determine the one that is right for your organization.