Reduce Workers’ Compensation Claims And Lost Work Days

Do you have a structured safe patient handling and mobility (SPHM) program in place at your organization? If not, consider the financial and reputational impact that it could have on your organization – and its bottom line over time.

Injuries related to patient handling are notorious for costing organizations big in both obvious and less obvious ways. For example, OSHA estimates the average cost of a patient handling injury to be approximately $15,600 per claim, a visible cost that can be easily quantified through a workers’ compensation claim. The LHA Worker’s Compensation Funds average $24,623 per indemnity claim, including both medical care and lost time from work.

However, other hidden costs are more difficult to measure and include:

  • Financial impacts of recruiting and hiring new staff to replace one that is injured
  • Reduction in staff productivity
  • Training and orientation costs
  • Staff turnover
  • Time spent investigating the event causing injury

Injuries related to manually handling and mobilizing patients can be devastating – even career-ending. Sometimes staff who incur such injuries never return to the healthcare profession and suffer from chronic pain. Some studies indicate that the overall financial impact of one patient handling injury to an organization may be over $100,000.

Arguments against investing time and tools to implement an SPHM program are often related to its cost. Most agree that clinical staff members face risks associated with handling and mobilizing patients daily, placing them frequently in vulnerable positions to injure or be injured by a patient. To reduce manual lifting and mobilization of patients, most healthcare organizations face the challenges of designing the program, purchasing necessary equipment, and training staff. All of these elements represent a financial cost and are often capital investment expenditures.

However, healthcare organizations that implement SPHM programs report a return on investment usually within 3-5 years from reductions in workers’ compensation claims, lower severity of claims, fewer employee injuries, and lost days from work. OSHA reports bear these findings out across the United States. Examples include:

  • A health system in Florida implemented an SPHM program, including a zero-lift policy and patient lift equipment that resulted in a 71% reduction of patient handling injuries and a 90% reduction in lost workdays among RNs.
  • A large hospital in Iowa experienced a reduction in workers’ compensation costs from $559,610 to $84,880 over three years after implementing a comprehensive SPHM program.

Leadership Commitment to Employee & Patient Safety

Leaders who are committed to creating an organizational structure that supports safe and effective care understand how latent hazards within a system result in harm to patients and employees. These leaders lead by example and make decisions that demonstrate their commitment to maintaining a safe environment of care for both patients and staff.

An SPHM program is a good example of an initiative that supports safety for both patients and employees within a healthcare organization. The 1999 IOM report “To Err is Human” lists actions that leaders can take to demonstrate their commitment to safety through their actions. The report lists two actions that SPHM programs fall under:

  • The actions management takes to improve both patient and worker safety
  • The availability of appropriate protective equipment

There is no need to wait until injuries occur to create and implement an SPHM program. A proactive approach to organizational safety can have dramatic results that you might not expect, such as improved morale and productivity.

Reduce Employee Injuries and Patient Adverse Events

The IOM report also discussed a correlation between the safety of patients and the safety of employees. The report indicates that both employee and patient injuries are related to the same system flaws. Slips in care by employees directly result in adverse events involving patients. Findings by OSHA reveal that employees are more compliant with safety precautions when they feel organization leaders also hold employee safety in high regard. Better employee compliance and leadership support result in fewer employee injuries and fewer patient adverse events within those healthcare organizations.

Where Do I Start?

There is extensive information available regarding the severity of healthcare employee injuries and the impact a formal SPHM program has on a healthcare organization’s overall culture of safety. Despite the studies and other resources regarding SPHM, LHA Trust Funds Risk and Patient Safety Consultants find few organizations have formal programs in place. Some specific elements missing from these organizations are:

  • Evidence of a risk assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of SPHM in their organizations
  • Written policies
  • A way to track and trend injuries
  • Adequate supportive equipment or knowledgeable staff to carry out an SPHM.

The benefits are obvious. What is standing in your organization’s way of committing to an SPHM?

How LHA Trust Funds Can Help

LHA Trust Funds works with our members to develop SPHM initiatives within their organizations. Members who commit to this service receive:

An assessment of SPHM in your organization that includes a review of:

  • Policies and procedures
  • New hire and ongoing training
  • Staff competency training
  • Claims related to SPHM
  • Lost and restricted days related to SPHM
  • SPHM culture
  • High-acuity mobility needs
  • Equipment and gaps in the program

A customized report based on the assessment findings. The report will communicate gaps in your program, propose recommendations and offer support for identified improvement opportunities. The report will also include prioritized information to help you gain big improvements quickly.

Invite key organization members to a Safety Champion program. This program will train your staff members to serve as the organizational experts on lifting, transferring, and repositioning strategies within your organization.

Interested? For more information regarding how to become a part of our SPHM initiative, download one of the fact sheets below or contact Vice President of Patient Safety and Risk Stacie Jenkins.

LHA Malpractice Trust Fund Members

LHA Workers’ Compensation Fund Members

Not a member? Learn more about LHA Trust Funds malpractice and workers’ compensation solutions online or contact Vice President of Business Development Kathy Terry.

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