Evaluation of direct workers' compensation costs for musculoskeletal injuries surrounding interventions to reduce patient lifting

Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.
Occupational and environmental medicine (Impact Factor: 3.27). 12/2011; 69(5):367-72. DOI: 10.1136/oemed-2011-100107
Source: PubMed


We evaluated costs for workers' compensation (WC) injuries of a musculoskeletal (MS) nature in a large tertiary care hospital and an affiliated community hospital in the 13 years surrounding an institution-wide shift to a 'minimal manual patient-lifting environment' supported with inpatient mechanical lift equipment.
Negative binomial regression was used to model adjusted and discounted payment rates based on full-time equivalents (FTEs), and payment ratios. The risk of higher cost was assessed based on type of injury (patient-handling vs non-patient-handling), hospital, job, age, gender, institutional tenure and time since the implementation of lift equipment. Lagging was used to evaluate the latency of the intervention effect.
Patient-handling injuries (n=1543) were responsible for 72% of MS injuries and 53% of compensation costs among patient care staff. Mean costs per claim were 5 times higher for those over age 45 than those <25 years of age. Physical and occupational therapy aides had the highest cost rates ($578/FTE) followed by nursing aides ($347/FTE) and patient transporters ($185/FTE). There was an immediate, marked decline in mean costs per claim and costs per FTE following the policy change and delivery of lift equipment.
The observed patterns of changes in cost likely reflect the effects of activities other than use of lift equipment, including targeted efforts to close WC claims and an almost simultaneous policy that shifted cost responsibility to the budgets of managers on individual units. Inference was facilitated through the use of longitudinal data on the workgroups and an internal injury comparison.

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