Workers’ compensation case managers routinely follow occupational disability guidelines (ODGs) in developing goals and plans for helping injured and ill workers recover and return to work safely and expeditiously.

“ODG is a company that has been in existence for years,” says Barbara DeGray, RN-BC, CRRN, vice president of case management at Managed Care Advisors in Bethesda, MD. “They did formal studies of how long people are out of work for both physical conditions and medical conditions. They listed all of these conditions by ICD-10 diagnosis codes, comparing thousands of workers’ comp and insurance cases over the years.”

Based on these data, ODG developed guidelines and standards for how long it takes to recover from a particular diagnosis, DeGray explains. (The guidelines can be found at:

“They have three levels: The best recovery is when everything goes wonderfully, the average recovery is the average of what you find when looking at all cases, and the max — meaning the maximum number of days to recover — is the group that takes the longest to get back to regular duty work,” she says.

According to ODG, these are samples of the shared return to work goals:

  • Ask the treating physician to provide a release to work, including both modified and full duty, with clear guidance on duration of disability and modifications for restricted duty, as needed;
  • Help injured workers return to work safely and timely;
  • Identify early opportunities to return to work;
  • Track outliers, demonstrate the value of case management, and benchmark lost work time;
  • Improve communication among all parties in the return-to-work process.