Some injured workers with a workers compensation claim are at risk of not returning to work within the expected timeframe, for a range of reasons. The PACE Project helps case managers identify high risk claims and provide greater support to workers.

EML funded the Plan of Action for a Case (PACE) project, a collaborative research venture with Dr Ross Iles, Dr Cameron Gosling and Professor Alex Collie from Monash University.

The project is focussed on early screening of claims by case managers to help identify injured workers at risk of not returning to work early on, and to trial a range of interventions to facilitate faster return to work.

Building our knowledge base

Dr Ross Iles explains that the project builds on previous research: “Evidence shows that factors such as psychological support, improved communication between stakeholders and workplace intervention can help with return to work, which we know is an important part of recovery.”

Identifying high risk claims

“However, identifying whether someone is at a higher risk of a delayed return to work is not a consistent feature of existing insurance practices,” comments Dr Iles. “By partnering with EML we worked closely with case managers to develop and refine a management tool with the ultimate aim of increasing the number of people who are able to return to work within three months.”

The project commenced in January 2016, with the first phase focussed on gathering data from case manager focus groups, a systematic literature review and five years of EML claims data. From this, a set of questions were compiled to identify a range of risks of delayed return to work, with further work undertaken to match case-manager led interventions to specific risks, each with the aim of improving outcomes for injured workers. The risk screening and interventions were then tested in phase two, involving different approaches in two locations. The data collection period ran from September 2016 to the end of June 2017.

Results are promising

The results indicate that using the triage tool did help case managers correctly identify situations where the injured worker is at risk of delayed return to work. Asking the right questions of the worker, employer and doctor within two weeks of a claim did systematically identify workers at higher risk of delayed return to work. This is the first step in achieving successful return to work for many high-risk cases.

Final findings are expected to be released mid-2018.