Combatting Needless Disability in the Workplace

Monday, December 23, 2019

By Becky Bro

Did you know that millions of American workers who develop serious health problems or face work-place injuries every year are able to stay at work or return to work after a brief recovery period? There is a sub-group however - approximately 10 percent of these workers - who will experience a prolonged or permanent absence from the workforce. Although many of these prolonged absences began as a very common health problem, such as a musculoskeletal pain disability, they ended in unexpectedly poor outcomes including job loss. 

Physical Disabilities are Stressful

Research shows that individuals diagnosed with a physical disability often experience depression and anxiety. In a study of 1,595 patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain disability,[1] 64 percent had a psychological diagnosis. When compared to the 15 percent that is expected in a comparable general population this finding is significant. With pain disorder included in the analysis, the rate of psychological conditions jumped to 99 percent with the most prominent conditions being depression, anxiety and substance abuse.  The authors of this study determined that stress linked with a chronic pain condition is a key factor in understanding the high rates of psychological problems.

Work Culture Matters

Creating a work culture that focuses on providing Stay at Work and Return to Work solutions can help to prevent or minimize the impact of poor return to work outcomes even before an injury or illness occurs. Many employers are discovering that preventing prolonged and unnecessary workplace absence includes incorporating proactive screenings with a focus on wellness and behavioral health as well as providing integrating disability management services that are specifically designed to work cooperatively to facilitate early intervention strategies when absences from the workplace cannot be avoided.

Early Intervention Drives Successful Outcomes

When unavoidable absences happen these employers understand that early intervention and proactive case management that includes regular and ongoing return to work discussions with the employee, the employer, the insurance company and the treating providers to develop creative solutions tailored to an employee’s unique condition are essential and necessary steps for creating positive return to work outcomes, successfully managing costs and decreasing the impact of extended absence from the workplace. 

Focus on What Can Be Done

At ExamWorks Clinical Solutions we are focused on what can be done and we are committed to working with all stakeholders to achieve successful outcomes.  If you have any questions about our case management services or Stay at Work and Return to Work consulting services please contact us at .

[1] Dersh, J. et al. Prevalence of psychiatric disorders in patients with chronic work-related musculoskeletal pain disability. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. May 2002; 44 (5) 459-468.