The traditional approach to musculoskeletal health management is to reactively treat injuries as they occur. This treatment model is failing. It fails people who work hard for a living and it fails organizations who collectively spend over $1 billion per week treating musculoskeletal injuries. There is only so much cost control you can manage after an injury has already occurred.
More and more organizations are realizing the value of moving healthcare upstream and addressing the root causes of MSDs. But if the current state of musculoskeletal health, as outlined in the article we published just a few weeks ago, is any indication — there is still a long way to go.
Successfully managing musculoskeletal health hinges on your organization’s resolve to move to a prevention-focused, upstream model of care.
Moving healthcare upstream
There is a growing movement of organizations moving healthcare into the workplace. Onsite clinics are commonplace with healthcare providers embedded directly into the workplace to care for injured employees as they return to work.
The benefits of delivering care directly into the workplace have been well documented. Closer proximity of care saves time, improves compliance, and improves overall health outcomes.
While there are benefits and advantages to this approach, this form of “health” care is still the reactive model of “sickness” care. Medical treatment is delivered in response to injuries — all that has changed is that it is delivered in closer proximity to where the injury occurred and where the worker is returning to work.
Delivering healthcare onsite is good. It’s a big step in the right direction and we recommend it. But why stop there? We encourage organizations to also move even further upstream to a prevention-focused model of care. This approach amplifies and expands the benefits of onsite healthcare.
Musculoskeletal injuries are preventable with a total worker health approach
The proactive and comprehensive approach we recommend for musculoskeletal health has been validated by an increasing amount of research done over the last two decades. In fact, the Total Worker Health initiative from NIOSH validates a “total” approach to worker safety and well-being.
Here is a quote that sums up the total worker health view:
“Today, emerging evidence recognizes that both work-related factors and health factors beyond the workplace jointly contribute to many health and safety problems that confront today’s workers and their families. Traditionally, workplace health and safety programs have been compartmentalized. Health protection programs have focused squarely on safety, reducing worker exposures to risk factors arising in the work environment itself. And most workplace health promotion programs have focused exclusively on lifestyle factors off-the-job that place workers at risk. A growing body of science supports the effectiveness of combining these efforts through workplace interventions that integrate health protection and health promotion programs.”
This is exactly what we’ve been saying for decades. In fact, it’s where our name comes from.
Ergonomics (Protect): Protect musculoskeletal health through engineering and administrative controls that ensure worksite design fits within the capabilities and limitations of the human body.
Plus (Promote): Promote musculoskeletal health through regular interaction with a preventive healthcare provider to ensure proper work practices and self-care.
By implementing a proactive ergonomics improvement process with a proactive, upstream model of healthcare, you are implementing a total solution that has the greatest chance at providing the most value to your organization and its people.
You are protecting and promoting the musculoskeletal health of your workforce, who use their musculoskeletal system day in and day out to generate work for you.
This is the sustainable and responsible way to manage musculoskeletal injuries — by preventing them.