Science and Innovation in Workplace Disability Management Programs
By Liz R. Scott, PhD
Emerging innovations in medicine and psychology are driving the evolution of disability management.
Two of the most inspiring and exciting recent innovations, that are showing real results and practical application in return to work (RTW): pharmacogenetics and cognitive behavioral therapy with an RTW focus. Increasingly, measured research results are showing that each has a real and lasting impact on reducing costs and an employee’s time away from work.1
More effective interventions are badly needed by American employers and employees. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveyed 94,000 U.S. workers across 14 major occupations, finding that 77% of workers fit the survey’s definition of having a chronic health condition (asthma, cancer, depression, diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity). The total annual costs related to lost productivity total $84 billion2 Adverse drug reactions, due at least in part to inter-individual variability in drug response, rank between the fourth and sixth leading causes of death in the United States.3 At the level of the individual workplace, this means that an employee who has an adverse drug reaction may be absent, resulting in the need to replace that employee or increase the workload on other employees, affecting productivity and morale.
An employee with a mental health condition such as depression may end up on short-term disability (STD). If the condition has the potential for successful pharmacological treatment, then the doctor or psychiatrist has to find the drug that will have the intended effect on the person. For mental health conditions, the symptoms are often experienced subjectively, including good and bad periods, which means that testing medications for the condition can often take months or even years.
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