Jan 21, 2022
Achieving Patient Centricity in Workers’ Compensation7 min read
It’s no secret that people aren’t fond of typical insurance. But workers’ compensation helps employees, and patient-centric methods take that help to another level. Patient centricity allows you to provide the best service and the most well-rounded care; it creates the greatest return-to-work programs and optimizes for quality of life.
When it’s patient-centric, people do like insurance. They feel satisfied, and that makes a significant difference. Research shows that patients who feel they had a positive claims experience are much more likely to return to work, even after accounting for other factors, like the injury, worker, claim, and employer.
It’s why patient centricity is at the center of modern workers’ compensation.
But what does centering your practice around a patient even mean? And what does it entail?
What Is Patient Centricity?
Workers’ compensation used to be about coverage. Now it’s about outcomes—results. Patients want to know they are receiving proper care, and businesses want to know that you have high return-to-work rates.
Ultimately, patient centricity results in better outcomes because it puts the patient first. It means the individual is at the center of every care decision, and prescribing the same regimen over and over is no longer enough.
When a patient is directed from one claims manager, doctor, and specialist to the next and told to do this and that based on the same formula given to everyone else, they are like a piece of debris lost at sea being pushed and pulled by the tides.
Patient centricity recognizes that everyone is different and that a patient plays a critical role in their own care, whether you want them to or not. They still have to attend appointments, do what they are told, and maintain hope.
As a result, practicing patient centricity means providing personalized care throughout the claims and healthcare process. It entails increasing the patient’s understanding, comfort, and ease of completion at every step:
- Reporting their injury
- Completing claims paperwork
- Assigning/selecting healthcare providers
- Undergoing the initial medical exam
- Undergoing diagnostic testing
- Getting specialist referrals
- Filling prescribed medications
- Acquiring prescribed medical equipment or services
- Completing physical and therapy treatments
- Preparing for surgery and rehabilitation
- Returning to work
- Settling the claim
The Benefits of Being Patient-Centric
You might wonder if becoming patient-centric is worth the work. The short answer is yes.
For one thing, patient centricity results in better care and treatment for injured workers. You’re more likely to notice and account for patient intricacies, and the patient is more likely to do what they need to in order to heal. About 50% of people don’t take medication the way it’s prescribed; imagine the improvement if all of them did.
Not only does patient-centered care speed up and increase the quality of a patient’s recovery and the likelihood of returning to work, but it feels good to do good. Employees do their job better and get to see the difference your business makes.
Then, there’s a competitive advantage.
Employers will be happier with your service when they see how well their workers are taken care of and how smoothly they return to work. You will experience more efficient claims management. Both of these factors will differentiate your service and grow your business—and you’ll deserve it.
In the same way that customer-centered brands dominate the sales space, patient-centric insurers and healthcare providers will dominate their respective industries.
How to Become Patient-Centric
Start With Individuality
The first step in becoming patient-centric is recognizing the individuality of each patient when it comes to their treatment and care. While you can create general processes for common injury types, you’ll want to make personalized care plans for each injured worker.
Doing so requires recognizing each patient for who they are: a unique human being.
Health disparities among COVID-19 have emphasized that different genders and races are prone to certain comorbidities. Socioeconomic status and disabilities can affect access to rehabilitation and treatment. Personal habits impact general well-being and willingness to comply with treatment, which is why it’s important to consult patients about their preferences.
When you remember that not every patient will prosper with the same care, you can make better decisions regarding their health and care.
Empathy in healthcare is the practice of understanding the personal experience of a patient without having experienced it yourself. Expressing empathy is vital for establishing trust and providing the best care possible.
You can begin practicing empathy by giving patients and clients your full attention when they speak. Nowadays, patient and claim information is logged away on a computer, making it easy to stare at the screen while talking to a client. Instead, attempt to make eye contact and let the patient know you’re listening.
On a grander scale, your business might consider using the knowledge gained through empathizing with patient needs to revise processes or test new systems.
Improve Communication Among Stakeholders
You achieve the best care by keeping all stakeholders—the employee, employer, providers, and relatives—involved and on the same page. The key here is effective communication.
The injured worker, in particular, should have access to a care team at all times so they can get their questions answered whenever questions arise. Modern technology can make this process more efficient through messaging and Q&A systems.
Everything regarding the employee’s injury, treatment, return to work, and the steps in between should be explained to the employee in layman’s terms throughout the process. After the claim is settled, consider following up with patients and clients to ask how you can improve communication.
To maintain communication among all stakeholders, you might consider assigning a care navigator. Some workers’ compensation insurers working towards patient centricity have begun using a care navigator to set outcome-focused goals, follow up throughout recovery to make sure all is on track or the track is adjusted as needed, the patient and stakeholders are supported, and to keep everyone updated.
While patient education could fall under communication, it’s important enough to list on its own. Besides, you can tell a patient everything, but that doesn’t mean they understand it.
Educating an injured employee means double-checking that they understood everything you’ve explained and leaving plenty of room for them to ask questions. The more they know what is happening to them, what to expect, and what they need to do, the more likely they are to comply and have hope for their recovery.
Thorough education also reduces the chances of readmission or a second injury.
Improve Access to Care
When you start to work with patients in a way that explores their individual needs and treatment challenges, you’ll begin to notice that access to care is often the culprit of failing to follow through. As a result, another element of becoming patient-centric is improving access when and where a patient needs it.
In many ways, telemedicine has helped improve accessibility for many people with a busy schedule, children, or who don’t have access to transportation. When a phone or video call isn’t enough, as with surgeries, you might consider offering drives to and from appointments for patients lacking transportation.
Another common barrier to care is language. With a growing amount of diversity in the US, many people struggle with the English language, especially when it comes to healthcare and insurance terminology. This makes it challenging to communicate with patients, resulting in trouble correctly diagnosing, treating, and motivating them.
The best way to embrace diversity and provide proper care in these circumstances is to use a professional interpretation and translation service. Some services, such as those offered by iLingo2, include interpretation for onsite, video, and transportation settings.
Consider Patient Lifestyle
Once internal barriers are addressed, you can explore ways to help with external barriers in terms of lifestyle and access to resources.
For example, not all injured workers have access to safe housing, proper food, or knowledge regarding healthy habits. A patient-centric provider should explore how these limitations can impact recovery and how they can help.
Consider educating injured workers on building healthier habits and offering lists of helpful resources for those who need it, including shelters and local food pantries.
Emphasize the Power of a Support System
Where mental health was once viewed second to physical health (if considered at all), it now needs to be considered simultaneously.
Mental and emotional well-being plays a critical role in the body’s ability to recover, especially from life-altering injuries that may result in self-loathing or depression. It’s why a strong support system goes a long way towards encouraging health.
When creating personalized care plans, evaluate a patient’s social support system and include it in their treatment. Consider social groups and therapy options the same way you would physical therapy.
Let Technology Help
If part of patient-centric care is getting the patient more involved in their treatment and making treatment easier, it’s only natural that modern technology would play a role.
For patients who are not staying in a hospital, self-monitoring and treatment apps are a fantastic way to motivate patients and keep them on track. A typical app might allow for self-monitoring, pain monitoring, appointment scheduling, and daily treatment and rehabilitation to-do lists for tasks like taking medicine or doing daily stretches.
Technology can also play a role in educating patients through courses or videos that explain what they are going through, what to expect, and how to prepare for events like surgery.
Advanced systems might even use augmented reality or gamification to further motivate patients.
Some workers’ comp companies have used databases and algorithms to better understand their patients through large amounts of claims data. One company used past data to discover common traits of at-risk patients, so they could intervene and provide better treatment. When using data in this way, it’s important to still consider the individual and how they might differ.
Prevent Common Injuries
One of the best things workers’ compensation insurers can do is help prevent injuries in the first place.
Most injuries are common, and safety practices across the board are relatively universal. For this reason, training courses and onsite safety hazard inspections are a great way to decrease injuries across the board.
Another practice that can decrease injury rates is Post Offer Employment Testing (POET). POET is a way of testing whether an employee can handle the physical requirements of a job. Physical needs for the job are evaluated and then tested, such as range of motion or lifting a certain amount of weight.
Most injuries happen in laborious jobs, and you can prevent many by helping employers avoid hiring people who can’t handle the physical strain of a specific job. It may feel harsh to disqualify a candidate, but you’re ultimately protecting their physical health.
Patient Centricity Is the Future of Workers’ Compensation
As more people question the care they are given and more employers demand proven return-to-work outcomes, patient centricity is becoming the future of workers’ compensation insurance. It drives better health results and results in higher claim satisfaction.
It’s rare that the best thing for business and the right thing to do are clear cut and the same. If you’re ready to improve health outcomes and insurance’s image, the tips in this article are a fantastic place to start.