Negotiate with everyone, but aid the injured worker

Industrial CM means a safe return to work

Case managers who work with injured or ill workers may find themselves collecting and providing information for the employee, providers, employers, attorneys and union representatives, but their main purpose is to make sure the employee can return to work safely.

"We truly are an advocate for the ill or injured employee. Our role is to do the right thing even if it doesn’t please everybody along the way," says Diane Schneider, CDMS, CCM, CRC, director of disability management for Intracorp, a health care management company based in Philadelphia.

Intracorp has more than 1,100 case managers all over the country who are medical, return-to-work, and community experts and liaisons in their particular area. The injuries they handle range from insignificant to catastrophic.

The case managers coordinate medical services for ill or injured employees, assist employees in understanding their abilities and disabilities, educate providers on patients’ home and work life, and work with employers to identify opportunities for employees to return to work safely.

"Case managers play a critical role during an employee’s recovery from an illness or injury. They are the key contact for the employee, provider, and employer in the coordination of quality medical services, and a safe and sustained return to productivity," she adds.

Making sure the employee returns to a safe work environment is the case manager’s main concern, Schneider says.

"Some employers are incredibly sophisticated with return-to-work opportunities, and they have built a program from the employees before the injuries happened. With other employers, the injured workers don’t come back to work until they are fully recovered," she says.

If the employer is able to accommodate the employee with modified duty work, everyone benefits, the case managers tell the employers.

"If someone is sitting at home recovering, they may become depressed, and the psychological ramifications can last a long time. We want to keep them busy and productive and be safe about it," Schneider says.