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Latest Top 10 Injury List Shows Need for Newer, Better Diagnostic Technologies

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Latest Top 10 Injury List Shows Need for Newer, Better Diagnostic Technologies

The latest report on workers’ compensation costs is staggering. Employers are spending nearly $60 billion annually on medical and indemnity costs for the top 10 non-fatal injuries. That equates to more than $1 billion per week — and that’s only the direct costs. When you add in indirect costs the figure is more than twice that amount.

While the cost of these injuries has increased, the actual number of them has declined. The figures from the latest Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index should serve as a wakeup call to workers’ compensation stakeholders to identify and embrace strategies that will turn these numbers around.

The Index

The insurance giant publishes its list of the top 10 causes of serious, nonfatal workplace injuries each year to help stakeholders understand and focus resources on preventing them. In addition to prevention, the latest numbers also signal the need to identify ways to reduce waste in post-loss expenditures. Reducing or eliminating unnecessary or inappropriate surgeries, procedures and medications; prolonged treatments; and fraudulent claims would have a significant impact on the numbers, and prevent needless suffering by injured workers.

 

The latest list and associated costs primarily involve soft-tissue injuries affecting the back, neck, shoulder, and extremities, including repetitive strain injuries.

Once again, overexertion tops the list, with $13.67 billion in direct costs to businesses. This includes injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing objects. Falls on the same level is next on the list, but accounts for a growing proportion of losses and costs $11.23 billion.

The remainder of the causes in order and their costs are:

Cause                                                  Direct Annual Cost (in billions)

  • Falls to lower level                              $5.85
  • Stuck by object or equipment             $5.33
  • Other exertions or bodily reactions     $4.19
  • Roadway incidents involving

motorized land vehicle                        $3.2

  • Slips or trips without falling               $2.3
  • Caught in/compressed by

equipment or objects                           $2.1

  • Struck against objects or
  • Equipment                                           $2.0
  • Repetitive motions involving

microtasks                                           $1.5

The Costs

The list is based on information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Academy of Social Insurance, and the insurer itself. BLS injury data are analyzed to determine the events that caused employees to miss at least six days of work. These are then ranked by total workers’ compensation direct costs.

The list does not include the estimated indirect costs. According to OSHA, those are comprised of training replacement employees, accident investigations, implementation of corrective measures, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.

OSHA’s $afety Pays program includes a calculator on its website to determine the estimated indirect costs. For $60 billion in direct costs, the calculator puts the indirect costs at $66 billion, for an overall total to businesses of $126 billion annually, or $2.4 billion per week.

Interestingly, the Index shows the number of the most serious injuries and illnesses dropped by 1.5 percent since last year’s report, but the costs rose by 2.9 percent — to $58.5 billion. While medical care has increased in price, the rate noted in the Index is above the latest reported medical consumer price index.

Solutions

One of the major reasons for higher costs of caring for injured workers is misdiagnoses. Research has shown that the rate of inaccurate diagnoses is on the rise, especially for soft tissue injuries. Among injured workers, misdiagnoses result in inappropriate, expensive procedures and medications that don’t address the person’s actual condition. Sometimes these claims even turn into ‘creeping catastrophics,’ where the disability becomes endless.

The good news is that soft-tissue injuries can and are being correctly diagnosed. Electrodiagnostic Functional Assessment, or EFA enables better diagnosis of soft tissue injuries. With the ability to better diagnose and identify the location, extent, nature and age of soft tissue injuries site specific treatment can be addressed, thereby preventing unnecessary and inappropriate treatment and can assist with the raging opioid epidemic

Organizations using the EFA report reductions in:

  • Lost time due to injuries
  • The frequency and expense of soft tissue claims
  • Experience modification rating

Conclusion

Workplaces are becoming safer, and that’s good news. However, the costs for injuries and illnesses that do occur are increasing to shocking levels. Payers need to put resources into technologies and programs that have been proven to improve outcomes — for their injured workers and their bottom lines.