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Integrated Disability Management

Nelofar Kureshi

Case Manager and Health Information Researcher

Rupert Case Management Inc.

Integrated disability management (IDM) is an underutilized yet effective solution for an employer’s disability benefits program.  In its simplest form, IDM is the harmonization of both public and private programs which contribute to the overall management of an employee’s health, wellness and return to work. This includes government regulated workers’ compensation, and privately managed short- and long-term disability, case management, rehabilitation and return-to-work programs.

The primary components of IDM program are:

1. Worker’s compensation: Employees who are injured or acquire a disease as a result of occupational exposure, are entitled to wage replacement and medical benefits.

2. Short-term disability (STD): Wage-loss protection is offered during a brief absence from work (usually 6 months or less) due to an injury or illness.

3. Long-term disability (LTD): Replacement income of a set percentage of pre-disability earnings is provided for an employee who has received a disabling injury or illness.

4. Return to work (RTW) program: Early intervention, recuperation, and rehabilitation processes promote the employee’s rapid return to work.

5. Case management: A dedicated case management service tailors the disability management program to meet the specific needs of each case by coordinating a combination of health services.

The benefits of adopting the unified approach of IDM are numerous. Using timely reporting, early intervention and powerful return to work components, IDM reduces the cost associated with employee illness and absence.  Disability duration is shortened by bringing the employee back to work sooner than would be expected and early return work translates into dollar savings and increased workplace productivity.

Analytical tools to track absence, claims, direct/indirect expenditures, and cost savings allow employers to consistently monitor the program performance as well as identify prevention strategies. The key to ongoing success is the measurement of results.  Data management and routine reporting allow for analysis and evaluation of the program’s success. This is crucial to estimate the return on investment generated by any new program.

In Canada, worker’s compensation for occupational injuries is government-regulated, whereas non-occupational disability (sick leave, STD and LTD), are privately handled through an organization’s human resource department. These silos often make it impossible reduce disabilities in the workplace and support the health and wellbeing of employees. The philosophy of disability management is creating a healthy and productive workforce- one method to achieve this is to integrate clinical and human resource strategies for lost time management through and IDM program.