Trends in Work Related Injuries and Illnesses

The Department of Industrial Relations has reported California’s 2016 occupational injury and illness data. Data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses showed California’s overall incidence rate was at the lowest it has been in over a decade, with a reported 3.7 cases per 100 full time workers.

Approximately 466,600 cases were reported in 2016, with 78% occurring in private industry and 22% in state and local government sectors.

Occupations with the highest rate of lost time cases included: building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, installation, maintenance and repair, construction and extraction and transportation and material handling operations. Occupations with the lowest rate of lost time cases included: computer and mathematical, legal, and life, physical and social science occupations.

Nationally, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a slight decrease in recordable cases to 2.9 cases per 100 full time employees in 2016 compared to 3.0 cases in 2015.

What to Watch in Wellness: Emerging Digital Health Technologies

You can expect new technologies in the coming years as digital health advancements gradually make their way into the workers’ compensation sector. Here are our top trends to keep a pulse on:

  1. Virtual Care: Traditional care delivery methods are expanding to now include digital doctor visits. This will be an added benefit to injured employees by eliminating the need to travel, while saving time and administrative costs associated with in-person visits. With talks to introduce a new sub-specialty of medicine called, “Medical Virtualists”, this is an emerging area we want to watch.
  2. Digital Prescriptions: While not yet available, digital pills are exactly what they sound like – medicine with digital sensors to help prescribers know if and how patients are taking their medicine. This exciting technology is in the research pipeline and will help ensure drug compliance among patients, which can translate to better treatment results and less wasted dollars on prescription noncompliance.
  3. Medical Delivery: Employees need easy access to prescriptions and durable medical equipment. Delivery methods may soon expand beyond traditional couriers and into known online digital retailers. While online prescriptions aren’t new, more resources to acquire drugs and in a faster time may be another way to cut workers’ compensation costs.

Workers’ Compensation Benefit Increases

The Division of Workers’ Compensation announced that the 2018 minimum and maximum temporary total disability (TTD) rates will increase on January 1, 2018. The minimum TTD rate will increase from $175.88 to $182.29 and the maximum TTD rate will increase from $1,172.57 to $1,215.27 per week.

California Adopts a Drug Formulary for the Medical Treatment of Injured Workers

Pharmaceuticals are a significant cost driver in workers’ compensation claims. Nearly half (42%) of all independent review medical disputes involve pharmaceuticals. These disputes delay medical treatment for injured workers, are time consuming and expensive for medical providers and payors.

Effective January 1, 2018, The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) will adopt an evidence-based drug formulary for occupational medical providers treating injured workers. The drug formulary is part of the Medical Treatment Utilization Schedule (MTUS), which contains guidelines on the medical treatments and is based on medical treatment guidelines created by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). The formulary establishes a list of medications to guide appropriate care that focus on health outcomes and returning to work.

Supporters of the new drug formulary project some of the benefits will include; addressing the overuse of certain narcotics such as opioids, improve medical care and lead to appropriate treatment.

OSHA Updates

OSHA extends compliance date for employers to electronically submit injury and illness data to the agency’s injury tracking application (ITA) to December 15, 2017.

OSHA’s final ruling of Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses requires certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness data they are already required to record on their OSHA record-keeping forms. Employers that are affected include: establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the record- keeping regulation and establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries. OSHA estimates approximately 350,000 employers nationwide are subject to these requirements.

Note: unless an employer is under Federal jurisdiction, the following OSHA approved state plans have not yet adopted the requirement to submit injury and illness reports electronically: California, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Establishments in these states are not currently required to submit their data through the ITA.

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