Prescription painkillers create unique problems in the world of workers compensation. Doctors in all fields have grown more aware of the issues created by prescribing potentially addictive painkillers to patients. Painkiller addictions can make the likelihood of finding a long-term solution to a patient’s situation decrease.
New Guidelines For Prescription Painkillers From The ACP
Studies continue to sow doubt about the effectiveness of painkillers as a treatment strategy for many different kinds of physical ailments, especially issues like lower back pain. Recent guidelines from the American College of Physicians suggested doctors should only suggest painkillers like ibuprofen after other treatments like regular exercise or chiropractor visits have failed. The guidelines also suggested that the negative side effects of opioids for this type of ailment significantly outweighed the modest benefits.
How Workers' Compensation Complicates These Guidelines
"Particularities of Workers' Compensation makes the problems caused by these addictions worse," says Brian Chance , VP of Claims and Services at ECBM. "Patients on Workers' Compensation disability receive on average two thirds of their normal wages while out of work. " Read More: Up in Smoke? Legal Marijuana Use for Medical and Recreation and its Impact on Workers’ Compensation
The employer, through their worker’s compensation insurance, also has to cover the employee’s medical expenses; this includes payments for expensive prescriptions. As a result, an over-reliance on painkillers in worker’s compensation hits employers and their insurance from both angles. Employers and their insurers pay for both expensive and ineffective painkillers and bear the increased costs of employees taking a longer time to return to work. One study found that opioid prescriptions account for 15% to 20% of the cost of long-term claims.
Fighting The Opioid Epidemic, Starting With WC Claims
As a result, the field of Workers' Compensation has moved to the vanguard of the movement against the prescribing of opioid painkillers. Many state Workers' Compensation boards have issued strict guidelines for opioid prescriptions in order to lower the costs associated with these prescriptions. In Ohio, for example, the Bureau for Worker’s Compensation requires that all physicians prescribing opioids in worker’s compensation cases to create individualized treatment plans and closely monitor their patients. The Bureau would refuse to pay for any prescriptions that did not follow their guidelines. The State has managed to decrease opioid prescription doses in worker’s compensation cases by forty one percent in recent years.
Treatment Plans Could Be Key In Reducing Opioid-Related Deaths
Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum. The country has a whole has faced an opioid epidemic in recent years. The use of the word epidemic isn’t hyperbolic either; the Center for Disease Control has classified the increase in opioid deaths as an epidemic. To that end, the CDC has also implemented their own guidelines for the prescription of opioids, seeking both to push physicians towards other therapies first and then suggesting the strict monitoring of patients once prescribed opioids.
Companies Should Also Make Plans For Better Patient Outcomes After A Workplace Injury
Still as a result of aggressive efforts in the field of workers compensation, states and employers are seeing big decreases in the amount of opioids prescribed to temporarily disabled workers, helping to contribute to lower costs and healthier employees. Companies need to review their own policies and procedures as well as that of their insurance company and the states in which they operate to make sure they follow best practices in this area.