WCRI: Worker Outcomes And The First Contact: Old News, Still New News

March 2nd, 2017 by Tom Lynch

Dr. Bogdan Savych, of WCRI, and Glenn Pransky, MD, from Liberty Mutual’s Disability Research Center, today reported on studies looking at predictors of worker outcomes and the way the initial contact following and injury impacts return to work.

It was in the mid 1980s when my partners and I realized that treating injured workers with dignity and respect and building workplace systems that enabled that would be a good business model. Thus, was Lynch Ryan born. We were right, and over the years became successful selling the model across America. These business systems saved employers a lot of money while providing quality care to injured workers. Frankly, I thought that battle had been won. Au contraire.

Doctors Savych and Pransky (PhD and MD) once again reminded attendees at WCRI’s Annual Conference that we still have a way to go.

Dr. Savych presented three main points (preliminary findings, subject to change):

  • In a 15 state study, 14% of injured workers with at least 7 days lost time never had a “substantial return to work;”
  • “Trust in the workplace” is a major predictor of an injured worker’s likelihood of returning to work;
  • Fear of being fired is a major predictor of an  injured worker’s likelihood of returning to work.

Dr. Pransky, whom I have long admired, presented evidence from several studies from the US, British Columbia and Australia aimed at determining the degree to which both the style and words used in the first encounter following injury influence the final outcome. Guess what? They’re really important.

Much has been written recently about the concept of “perceived injustice” in the course of injury recovery. At this year’s National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference, Dr. Marco Iglesias, of The Hartford, discussed this in detail, advocating that adjusters empathically listen to injured workers and, generally, improve their communication skills. That is easier said than done, but surely worth the effort.