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May 2007

If The Future Is Crazy – How To Manage Stress Claims

By: Liz R. Scott

Employers have been experiencing increased claims and associated costs related to what is being categorized as psychological or emotional impairments of their employees. Traditional disability management strategies have been successful in preventing or accommodating physical disabilities in the workplace. Similar success has not been broadly realized in the realm of psychological/mental health related disabilities. However, integrating the principles and strategies of traditional disability management programs to psychosocial disability management programs has assisted employers in controlling costs.

Due to the rising financial and human costs associated with employees who experience work disruptions because of psychological impairments or mental illnesses, it is imperative that employers include these individuals in disability management efforts.

Using third-party disability management services, provided as part of an employer-based disability management program, gives a balanced focus between the workerʼs capabilities and the factors in the work environment that impact return to work. Disability management programs address the internal factors or ʻrootʼ causes of work disability at the work site. Accordingly, the return to work includes an understanding of the issues that represent the real workplace dynamics and challenges.

Psychosocial Disability Management

Successful reduction of psychological claims and their resultant costs have some similarities to the physical lost time claims. There is no need to have a separate system for managing psychological claims. A clear integrated approach to managing disability, regardless of the cause, is key in their resolution.

In light of this information, disability management professionals, employers, and individuals with psychological disabilities are in need of more effective methods of managing behavioural health issues in the workplace.

Comprehensive disability management strategies should be part of an integrated disability management program goal. Disability management strategies, which have been found to be effective in rehabilitating and accommodating individuals with physical disabilities, can be adapted to include psychosocial rehabilitation services for employees who experience psychological health problems that hinder their work performance. The philosophy, goals, and objectives of disability management, including psychosocial claims, can be merged to achieve complimentary strategies and, ultimately, success.

The following information outlines specific disability management strategies that have been implemented and have successfully reduced costs and duration of psychological health claims.

how to manage stress claims

Claim Initiation

The first step in any disability management program is to have a clear system in place to report and verify the absence. It is essential to filter psychological illness out from the ʻidonʼtfeellikeworkingʼ syndrome.

Case management interventions originally emerged as an alternative to the shortcomings and inefficiencies of the traditional, individual, or medical models of treatment and recovery. The traditional, individual model is generally reactive, provider-based, and clinical. In the medical model, services are considered reactive because they are often applied after the onset of disability with little attention paid to prevention or early intervention. Services are usually provided by a third-party in settings that are external to the work environment such as clinics, hospitals, or facilities. Employers and employees play a passive role in return to work activities and relinquish control. The old medical model is a ʻbroken paradigmʼ because services are not connected to the workplace and the influences of environmental factors originating in the actual work setting are largely ignored.

In the medical model approach, the emphasis has been on diagnosing and treating the condition rather than emphasizing the residual capabilities and implementing a work conditioning return to work strategy.

In contrast to the medical model, case management represents a proactive and systematic approach. Employers and employees take an active role regarding transitional return to work and other issues pertaining to the disability.

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