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Monthly Archives: August 2009

Are You Ready to Deal With Employee Absenteeism?

Shepell·fgi, a Canadian provider of workplace health and productivity solutions, surveyed 100 Canadian organizations and concluded in a June 4, 2009 report that “that far too many supervisors and managers in the Canadian workplace are not equipped to deal with employee health, productivity, absenteeism, disability, and employees returning to work after an absence.”

Recommendations from the survey were as follows:

Seward said organizations should do the following:

  • Establish preventative measures to include proactive promotion of EAP-based employee needs, both at the broader organizational level and at the workgroup level.
  • Establish regular and formal manager/supervisor training to identify and respond to declining productivity and changes in employee behaviour.
  • Support managers and supervisors with absence data, and also absence trending data, so managers will know when to intervene when it comes to employee absence.
  • Support managers and supervisors with better and more consistent, return-to-work processes.

Absence management data is, of course, what we do at MDGuidelines and we have plenty of evidence-based, physician-reviewed data to show that managing absence cases to optimal return-to-work guidelines is beneficial both for companies and for helping employees return more quickly to healthy, productive endeavors.

You can read Shepell-fgi’s summary article and download the report from here.

Workplace Injury of the Week: Low Back Pain

Low back pain is not a specific injury or disease, but this symptom ranks second only to upper respiratory infections as a cause of lost work productivity. With 2.4 million people excused from work and 13 million visits to the doctor each year, low back pain accounts for approximately 175.8 million days of restricted activity annually in the US.

The symptom is usually described as discomfort in the lumbosacral region of the back that may or may not radiate to the legs, hips and buttocks. The pain may be due to a variety of causes, and many individuals may never receive a clear diagnosis for the cause of the pain.

Although low back pain may be caused by medical conditions such as infection or cancer, the vast majority of low back pain cases are attributed to mechanical or musculoskeletal conditions. These conditions incude lumbosacral muscle and ligament strains and sprains; disorders of the intervertebral discs and associated joints such as degeneration.

Risk Factors:
An initial episode of back pain typically occurs between 30 and 40 years of age. The likelihood increases with age. Overall deconditioning also is likely to contribute to low back pain. Added stress to the back from any cause such as obesity, pregnancy or unnatural curvature or disease of the spine can increase the risk for back pain. Occupational risk factors include lifting objects while twisting or without properly bending the legs, heavy pushing or pulling, and vibrational stresses. A family history may predispose individuals to some causes of back pain, such as degenerative disc disease.

The mean return-to-work duration for low back pain is 46 days, but this can vary widely depending on treatment and other case management factors.

Want to know more? Read more about this common workplace injury and see typical disability durations and other physician-reviewed information at MDGuidelines.

Predictive Modeling: Wave of the Future

nucoLogoA trio of experts at a recent Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference in Florida said that while predictive modeling won’t replace knowledgeable insurance adjusters and underwriters, it is the ‘wave of the future” for the workers’ compensation industry.

The panel’s remarks are covered in an excellent August 18th article by Daniel Hays, National Underwriter (P&C). The conference was presented by the Florida Workers’ Compensation Institute in partnership with The National Underwriter Company.

Hays wrote:

Jennifer Tomilin, senior vice president, Zurich North America, said she could not foresee underwriters ever being replaced because “there are areas where we don’t have enough data for predictive modeling.”

But modeling is the future and companies that are “stuck in the mud” and ignore it, “those folks are going to be left behind,” warned Steve Laudermilch, senior manager Deloitte Consulting.

At Reed Group, we couldn’t agree more, so much so that we’ve developed one of the industry’s first predictive modeling tools for return-to-work durations. The tool allows much more accurate predictions based on the employee’s age, gender, comorbid conditions and other factors. And more accurate predictions enable better case management, cost savings, and the potential to return employees to full, productive lives sooner.

You can read the full National Underwriter story here.

If you’d like a tour of our new Predictive Modeling Tool at MDGuidelines, please call us at 866.889.4449.

Top Ten Tips for Occupational Health Reports

ptodcom_award just posted an excellent Occupational Health article with tips on writing high-quality OH reports. Ken Addley, Isobel Hannah and Patricia McQuillan offered practical advice, including…

#5: “If the employee is absent, guidance in relation to the timescale for a return to full or restricted duties should be provided, expected duration of any limitations and whether a review is necessary.”

The physician-reviewed, evidence-based guidelines offered by are perfect for this, as well as for another need addressed in the article: providing consistent and high-quality medical information about the employee’s condition.

The article’s advice is clear and well-written. Check it out here.

Workplace Injury of the Week: Meniscus (Knee) Tears

meniscusDid you know that knee injuries are the second most common work-related accident?

More than 3 million Americans have knee injuries each year, and the meniscus is the most commonly injured part of the knee. In the US, 61 of out every 100,000 people have experienced a meniscal tear.

Knee meniscus disorders involve the medial meniscus or lateral meniscus, two semicircular pads of cartilage in the knee between the joint surfaces of the upper and lower leg bones. The most common meniscus disorder is a tear.

In young people, meniscal tears are usually caused by trauma involving a twisting or pivoting of the knee. In older people, there may be a gradual degeneration of the meniscus with no single causative event. As older people develop osteoarthritis of the knee, the menisci develop degenerative changes as well, and these can look like tears on imaging studies.

Individuals who have a previous knee injury, an abnormally shaped (discoid) meniscus, or tight, weak muscles, or who walk on the insides of the feet (pronation) are at risk for knee injuries.

Meniscus tears occur 2.5 times more frequently in men than women, although disorders of the lateral meniscus occur more often in women. The peak incidence of meniscus tears is 31 to 40 years of age in males and 11 to 20 years in females. A second peak of meniscus tears caused by age-related degeneration occurs in people over age 60.

For employees who miss work because of meniscus tears, the median MDGuidelines return-to-work duration is 37 days, but this can vary widely depending on treatment and other case management factors.

Want to know more? Read more about this common workplace injury and see typical disability durations and other physician-reviewed information at

Depression Complicates Back Injury Recovery

back painGreat Comp Time blog article by Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance Magazine on the relationship between depression and musculoskeletal claims. Citing a paper published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Ceniceros says “back injury claims often prove difficult to resolve and depression is also very common among claimants and the U.S. population in general.”

He quotes the paper as saying: “The best targets for treatment of disabling musculoskeletal pain are often depression and the tendency to misinterpret or overinterpret pain. But orthopedic surgeons may not be very familiar with the influence of depression or other psychosocial factors.”

Our MDGuidelines data supports this claim. Our new Predictive Modeling Tool, which shows the effect of comorbidities and other factors on return-to-work durations, clearly shows that depression and other psychosocial factors can significantly increase time away from the job for many physical conditions. If more orthopedic surgeons had access to this data, it might be more frequently factored into treatment plans, helping injured employees return to work and to healthy, normal lives more quickly.