How Can You Help Manage Your Employees’ Chronic Pain?

June 26, 2019

Managing chronic pain can be a real challenge for employers and employees. Conscientious employees want to get better and back to work, but are often fearful of overmedicating. At the same time, responsible employers want to demonstrate the proper level of concern without interfering with the prescribed treatment.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing chronic pain. Each case should be handled individually, with the intent of doing what’s best for the injured worker. In 2017, the Federation of State Medical Boards revised its policy on using opioids to treat chronic pain. The policy addresses the risks of using opioids and tips for preventing addiction. However, it also recognizes the importance of treating pain properly. Under-treatment, solely to avoid prescription drugs, can compromise functional status and quality of life for the injured worker. In these instances, reliance should be monitored and employee assistance programs should be utilized if one becomes addicted.

There are numerous other ways employers can help manage employees’ chronic pain and protect their bottom line.

  1. Work closely with your benefit and healthcare providers. They can provide you with a greater understanding of utilization data, and may develop interventions for prescribing behavior and opioid claims. Also ask if they have provisions to pay for alternative therapies, in lieu of narcotics. This can include physical or occupational therapy to improve physical function, and cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients cope psychologically with their pain.
  2. Educate your employees. Share the dangers of taking opioid painkillers. Make sure employees are familiar with your organization’s resources if they are struggling with substance abuse. Encourage them to also become allies with their doctors, which creates open channels of communication for managing pain.
  3. Be alert. Ask supervisors to frequently provide feedback on job performance. Erratic or depressed behavior, or increased missed time at work, can be indicative of substance abuse. Supervisors and business owners should never diagnose a substance disorder. Only a medical professional can make diagnoses. However, employers should identify the issue and encourage the affected worker to seek help.

In addition to looking out for your business, the above recommendations can transform the lives of employees. Your insurance carrier and Amerisure agency can assist you in creating a responsible and cost-effective plan for managing employee health.