Workers' comp payers want timely estimates

Outcomes and cost data aren't enough

When workers' compensation payers negotiate with rehabilitation providers, they want to know more than what it will cost to treat an injured worker. For many companies, the cost of disability far exceeds the cost of medical treatment itself.

Early and timely estimates of how long treatment will take are the most valuable information you can give to a company, says Kenneth Wells, MD, corporate medical director for Tenneco, a Greenwich, CT-based automotive parts and packaging corporation.

"Employers are trying to manage employee resources as aggressively as they manage the other components of their operations," Wells says.

When Wells talks to vendors about contracts to treat Tenneco employees, he often gives them a hypothetical case that is an amalgam of workers' compensation cases he's had over the years and asks them how they would handle it. "This gives us a general sense of how they handle issues of communication and regulatory issues such as the Americans With Disabilities Act. We've found it to be a useful exercise," he says.

Wells is likely to talk to colleagues at other companies to find out what their experiences have been with a particular provider. "It's like conducting due diligence for any other vendor," he says. We look at how well the company is run, how long they've been in business, and whether they have a positive track record of accomplishing what they say they're going to do."

The outcome may be as simple as whether the company actually does what its representatives say it's going to do.

"If the industry data say it takes 10 days to manage a certain injury, and you are able to do it in seven days, it may represent a quality program. But on the other hand, it may mean you're sending people back before they're ready, and you have consider that as well," Wells says.