A Proactive Healthcare Success Story
In lesson 3 of this workshop, we introduced the concept of proactive healthcare and how it differs from a reactive healthcare philosophy. If this is a new concept to you, here’s a quick refresher:
A proactive healthcare process doesn’t wait for a workplace athlete to develop an MSD before that workplace athlete gets the training, information and coaching they need to remain healthy.
Here is the typical example of how healthcare is delivered to workplace athletes.
The workplace athlete appears to be healthy. Time goes on. The workplace athlete notices that the wear and tear is starting to worsen. More time goes on. The workplace athlete really begins to notice higher levels of fatigue and discomfort on a regular basis. More time passes. The workplace athlete has lost physical function and suffers an MSD. They go to a doctor to get surgery, a prescription and whatever else they need to make a recovery. Hopefully they return to peak health, but it’s unlikely.
This model of healthcare is reactive in philosophy and in practice. If your company’s healthcare process is in reactive mode, you’re leaving a huge opportunity on the table. Remember that MSDs develop over long periods of time due to microscopic wear and tear to the soft tissues every day. The earlier you provide healthcare, the better the outcome for the workplace athlete and for the company. This is proactive, or preventive, healthcare where the goal is to prevent injuries and avoid costly reactive healthcare.
Here is the difference between reactive and proactive healthcare.
- Waits for an injury to occur before being implemented
- Delivers the worst health outcome for the person who was injured
- Is the most costly form of healthcare for the company
- Is implemented before an injury occurs
- Provides workplace athletes with injury prevention tools and techniques through group education workshops and one-on-one training
- Delivers the best health outcome for the workplace athlete
- Is the least costly form of healthcare for the company, providing a strong return on investment
What does a proactive healthcare program look like?
There are different ways to approach this, but we’ve had great success with a “Workplace Athlete” approach. Just like professional sports teams provide their athletes with a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC), your organization can benefit from embedding an athletic trainer directly into the workplace to provide preventive healthcare for your “workplace athletes”.
Do you know where your next MSD is coming from?
MSDs form over long period of time. This is great news! It means that workplace athletes begin to experience early warning signs long before an MSD develops. It also means that the next few years of MSDs are in development right now, presenting you with a huge prevention opportunity.
So, will you come into the office tomorrow to learn of another MSD-related OSHA recordable injury? Is there a way to know?
Yes, there is. At the heart of proactive or “preventive” healthcare is identifying early warning signs of MSDs so you have time to put control measures in place to reverse the early warning signs and prevent the injury. We call this process Early Intervention.
Early Intervention allows you to see into the future and discover the future injuries forming right now.
A perfect example of this is Kay. Her story ended much differently than Ed’s story did, and is a shining example of the benefits of a qualified healthcare professional proactively caring for workplace athletes.
Here to tell Kay’s story is Ergonomics Plus founder, Mark Middlesworth:
“Kay’s supervisor (Steve) noticed that something was missing that morning – her smile. Her body language seemed different as well, so he asked her if there was a problem. “Not really, it’s nothing really.” But Steve didn’t let it go, and again he asked, “Are you sure something’s not bothering you?” Kay then told him that she was experiencing some discomfort in her right arm. Steve responded, “I’m glad you told me, thank you. I’ll have Mark (the onsite injury prevention specialist) come talk to you about this and we’ll see if we can get you the help that you need to resolve this.”
I love it when employees are encouraged by well trained and proactive supervisors to let someone know they are beginning to have a problem! For each individual who reports unusual fatigue or discomfort, potential causes are identified and corrected whenever possible. Injury prevention handouts are reviewed with the employee and a self-care program is established to address all potential individual causative factors.
In Kay’s case, potential causes were identified and a self-care program was established. She did a great job of implementing the prevention plan, and within a few days that wonderful smile was back on her face!”
Four simple words that make all the difference
“How are you feeling?”
In a business environment where 71% of employees are not engaged at work, these four words can make a huge difference to the culture of your organization. When a qualified healthcare professional consistently demonstrates empathy for workplace athletes, it builds trust. The workplace athlete knows the company is spending resources to make sure they are feeling well, and if they aren’t, they know help is there.
Kay was certainly glad it was.
Lesson 5 Key Takeaways
- MSDs form gradually over the course of a long period of time. Uncovering the early warning signs allows you to put control measures in place to prevent an injury from happening.
- Encouraging early reporting of fatigue and discomfort allows you to see into the future and discover the future injuries forming right now.
- Simply asking workplace athletes how their body is doing will make all the difference — in many different ways.
- A proactive healthcare model adds tremendous value to the organization and its people while also significantly reducing healthcare costs.