What’s Ahead in Health Care Workers’ Compensation?

September 27, 2016

For the 2017 accident year, health care systems will face a complex environment of emerging risks that will have a direct impact on workers’ compensation, according to analysts at Aon Global Risk Consulting.

The risk consulting business recently released its biennial Health Care Workers’ Compensation Barometer report, which explores trends in frequency, severity and overall loss rates related to workers’ compensation in the health care industry.

The report, which analyzes data from 1,600 heath care facilities across the country, found that while the severity of workers’ compensation claims has been increasing at a rate of two percent annually, the frequency of claims is expected to decrease one percent annually.

The report also found that the industry should see loss rates increase by a projected one percent.

“As has been the case historically, the health care industry has experienced little volatility in workers’ compensation loss rates and, to augment that, claims frequency continues on a slow and steady decline,” said Martha Bronson, associate director and actuary for Aon Risk Solutions. “However, an aging workforce, safe patient handling issues and workplace violence are all emerging risks that need to be top of mind for the industry.”

Aging Workforce

Data from Aon’s report finds that workers’ compensation claim costs increase as health care workers age, with the majority of those claims resulting from injuries to the back and shoulders. Fifty three percent of working nurses – a demographic that is the most frequently injured – are over the age of 50.

The report says that education, specifically mentoring of the younger nursing population, could help control these types of claims in the future. While the report found that 58 percent of respondents have a program that develops younger workers, 61 percent do not have policies or programs that help transition older workers to a different work setting.

Safe Patient Handling

While loss prevention was the area of most concern for respondents, safe patient handling policies and controls are also top-of-mind in regards to minimizing risk of injury to health care workers. The report’s findings suggest that focusing on patient handling initiatives and best practices can aid in preventing workers’ compensation claims, thus helping mitigate both concerns. The average cost of a claim for systems that use Safe Patient Handling and Mobility standards is lower versus a facility that does not – $6,000 versus $7,800 – and overall these standards have reduced the incidence of health care worker injuries by up to 95 percent.

Workplace Violence

An alarming number of survey respondents – 91 percent – have experienced workplace violence in the past three years. However, approximately half of respondents indicate they are prepared for such an incident, with another 27 percent being very prepared. Eighty-one percent of respondents have a formal Workplace violence prevention policy in place.

“While we recognize these emerging risks that are facing our industry in the year ahead, we also see that health care systems are ahead of the game,” Dominic Colaizzo, chairman and U.S. Health Care practice leader for Aon Risk Solutions, said. “They are adhering to standards and utilizing best practices that are no doubt having a direct, positive effect on the number of workers’ compensation claims.”

Aon’s report also provides statistics specific to 11 states. Notably, the report finds that loss rates in California are almost double the countrywide rate and that claims severity is nearly three times that of the countrywide average of $23,950.

Aon also released its updated Hospital and Physician Professional Liability Benchmark report., which it conducts along with American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM).

This report showed that professional liability claim frequency showed a modest one percent decrease. The study also found a correlation between professional liability and workers’ compensation claims. Aon analyzed data from 34 health care systems participating in both the liability study and the Aon Health Care Workers’ Compensation Barometer.

Colaizzo said the study found that “there is, in fact, a correlation between patient safety and worker safety. Health care systems should be encouraged to know that investments in their general safety environment benefit both workers and patients.”

Source: Aon’s Health Care Workers’ Compensation Barometer

Topics Claims Workers' Compensation Talent Aon Medical Professional Liability

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