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Making the Case for Return-to-Work Support

It’s easy to focus on how a specific piece of equipment or a schedule modification can help make a difference for an employee who may need assistive support in the workplace. But, when looking at disability duration — or the amount of time an employee is out of work because of his or her disabling medical condition — case management, as part of a carrier’s return-to-work program, can be crucial in supporting an employee.

What Is Case Management?

Many people think case management is claims handling, but it’s actually much more than that. Case management is the process of providing support, guidance and motivation for an employee who is either working through a medical condition or returning to work after a disability leave. Carriers with robust disability programs often have disability consultants skilled in behavioral health, vocational support and chronic illnesses to provide motivation and a helping hand to an employee on a disability leave.

Consultants are able to establish a rapport and gain trust from the employee by working with him or her to gauge their capacity to return and provide guidance to help them achieve that goal. For example, a consultant can help an employee determine questions to ask his or her medical provider to gauge if there should be any restrictions placed on their return. This can help the employee feel empowered and engaged in their recovery and return to the workplace.

A consultant isn’t just a support to an employee, but a great support for you, too. A consultant can make sure that everyone – from the employee, to his or her medical team and the employer – are all on the same page and that everyone is working together. A consultant can also bring suggestions to the table about light duty, part-time work and accommodations that could help provide support to an employee in his or her return.

A Return-to-Work Success

I recently reviewed a case where this approach helped shave almost five months off an employee’s disability leave.

An employee was off work due to a behavioral health condition, as well as three additional physical conditions, and was expected to be out of work for almost eight months. A behavioral health consultant first connected with the employee to learn about her situation, which included a recent hospital stay and outpatient treatment. During the first call, the consultant learned about the employee’s goals for her recovery and what she was struggling with at work before her disability leave.

After that initial call, the consultant checked in regularly with the employee to see how she was doing and helped start the return-to-work process in conjunction with the employee’s medical providers after just a few weeks. The consultant suggested a part-time return to work, which helped the employee ease into a routine without hindering her recovery eight weeks after she originally went on leave.

A disability leave can be one of the most scary and uncertain times in a person’s life. Having case management support can help make all the difference for an employee to feel supported and engaged during his or her recovery and subsequent return to work.


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