AON: Year ahead for health care systems will bring emerging risks, complex workers’ compensation claims
The report, which analyzed data from approximately 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.”
Data from Aon’s 2016 Health Care Workers’ Compensation Barometer 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. A likely consideration for controlling these types of claims in the future and helping to ensure a healthy and safe workforce is education, specifically mentoring of the younger nursing population. 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.
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.
Dominic Colaizzo, chairman and U.S. Health Care practice leader for Aon Risk Solutions added, “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. 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.”
Historical trends by State
Aon’s Health Care Workers’ Compensation Barometer report also provides statistical information on historical frequency, severity, and overall loss rates 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.
“Health care is a fast-growing sector right now, and workers in this industry face a myriad of hazards on the job,” said Virginia Jones, senior consultant and actuary at Aon Risk Solutions. “These findings should be a benchmark for risk managers, helping them realize three distinct benefits to a strategic risk management program: they can measure their workers’ compensation exposure against their peers, maintain standards of practice and safety levels and reduce the overall cost of risk.”