Reduce Workers’ Comp Liability with Lift Policies, Technology
Workers’ compensation can be a significant risk and cost category for healthcare employers. The industry faces unique risks to employees.
- Overexertion from patient handling is a common injury.
- Two-person lift policies can help.
- Technological solutions can prevent ergonomic injuries.
Workers’ compensation poses a significant liability risk and expense for any company — and healthcare employers face exposures unique to their industry. Technological solutions may help.
Overexertion, often due to patient handling, is a common injury for healthcare employees, leading to sprains and strains of the back or shoulder, says Matthew Hart, founder and CEO of Soter Analytics, a London-based company that provides wearable technology to prevent ergonomic injuries.
“Overexertion typically results in musculoskeletal injuries and are being reported in healthcare workers at a far higher rate than many other industries,” Hart says. “You may be surprised to know that a healthcare worker is more likely to sustain a musculoskeletal injury than a mining, construction, or manufacturing worker.”
Lifting people is an unavoidable aspect of working in the healthcare industry, with nurses and other healthcare workers regularly lifting weights that in any other industry would be assisted by equipment, Hart says. That is why manual patient handling poses one of the highest injury risks out of all industries. The most common types of musculoskeletal injuries sustained by healthcare workers are lower back injuries, strains, rotator cuff injuries, and tendinitis.
“Quality workers are already in short supply, and the cost of replacing even a single nurse can have a profound impact on diminishing hospital margins. It needs to be managed,” Hart says.
According to the 2022 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report, the average cost of turnover for a bedside RN is $46,100. Each percent change in RN turnover will cost or save the average hospital an additional $262,300 per year.
Tactics for reducing both injuries and the associated costs include using lift assist equipment, but many of these items require more than one worker to operate them.
“One way of overcoming this problem is implementing a strict two-person lift policy, requiring nurses, paramedics, and aged care workers never to lift a patient alone,” Hart says. “Most healthcare organizations incorporate some form of manual handling training into their onboarding processes for workers.” Another option is implementing one-on-one movement coaching, he suggests.
New advances in ergonomic training using wearable sensors and biofeedback can be effective by gathering data and, in some cases, coaching healthcare workers to self-correct their movements in real time, Hart says.
Hart worked with a hospital in Australia where caregivers in the endoscopy department were suffering a higher rate of shoulder and elbow injuries. The workers were unsure how they sustained these injuries, so the hospital fit 10 workers with wearable ergonomic devices.
The data collected showed these caregivers could perform up to 53 hazardous movements per hour on their busiest days, Hart says. Normally, comparable labor-intensive departments would perform only five hazardous movements per hour. An analysis of the data highlighted one specific task that required excess arm elevation — hanging scopes in drying cabinets.
The hospital implemented a small modification to the task by adjusting how workers hold the scopes when placing them in the drying cabinets, Hart says. After applying this simple method, the hazardous movements were reduced to just 4.2 per hour and there have been no reported injuries to date.
High Risk of Litigation
Because of the potential high cost of these workers’ comp claims in healthcare, there is a significant risk of litigation, notes Mark Tainton, global head of analytics with Ventiv Technology, an Atlanta-based company that provides risk management and insurance support.
Some of the more common risks to healthcare employees are the transmission of disease from patients via needles, bodily fluids, airborne diseases, as well as injuries that occur while lifting or transporting patients from one location to another. Slips and falls resulting from liquids or obstacles in patient rooms or hallways also commonly lead to employee injury.
There are multiple solutions hospitals and medical facilities can implement to help minimize the potential for these risks to occur, Tainton says. They include using technology-based risk management solutions, which can help hospitals and medical facilities ensure they are adequately responding to and preventing recurring incidents.
“Risk management technology, for instance, can help indicate if a facility is more susceptible to incidents like slipping and falling, or if there are certain in-building routes that are more prone to accidents or injury. These risk management solutions can also help medical organizations avoid adding insult to injury by helping to better streamline and manage the claims process,” Tainton says. “With the aid of technology, these claims can be managed in a timely and responsive way, helping to prevent claims from escalating to the point of litigation.”
- Matthew Hart, Founder and CEO, Soter Analytics, London. Email: [email protected].
- Mark Tainton, Global Head of Analytics, Ventiv Technology, Atlanta. Phone: (866) 452-2787.
Workers’ compensation poses a significant liability risk and expense for any company — and healthcare employers face exposures unique to their industry. Technological solutions may help. Overexertion, often due to patient handling, is a common injury for healthcare employees, leading to sprains and strains of the back or shoulder.
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