Originally developed as a pilot program in 2002, the Occupational Health Services pilot was a partnership aimed at improving injured worker health outcomes. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and Valley Medical Center initially sponsored the Center of Occupational Health and Education (COHE) with the goal of expanding community expertise in both occupational health care and disability prevention. Specifically, it employed continuing Medical Education (CME), professional consultation, coordination of health care services, and provider financial incentives to improve outcomes for injured and ill workers. It was designed and continues to be a partnership among business, labor, L&I, and providers to expand occupational health care expertise and improve outcomes. The program continues to:
- Preserve a worker’s choice of physician
- Improve communication between physicians, employers, workers , and the department
- Make clinical and administrative resources available when and where physicians and workers need them most
- Foster community-based workplace injury and illness prevention
- Reduce work-related disability and return workers to their jobs more rapidly
Ultimately, pilot program outcomes showed dramatic improvement, saving the state’s workers’ compensation system nearly $6 million. The University of Washington reviewed 42,000 injured-worker claims filed in a year and found that workers treated by doctors enrolled in the COHE recovered more quickly, were less likely to go on disability and had lower claim costs. The UW study estimated the COHE had saved the state’s workers’ compensation system about $5.8 million in the year the study evaluated. The state legislature authorized additional money to expand the centers and add more training for doctors.
For more information on the entire Renton COHE study, visit the L&I website.
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History of COHE
The Occupational Health Services Pilot (OHS) was the culmination of years of research and innovative thinking at L&I, along with the cooperation of other groups. It combined many of the features of the Managed Care Pilot, allowed the worker freedom of choice of physician, and stressed best health practices for quality of care.
The Managed Care Pilot found that managed care reduced costs by 27%, maintained quality of care, increased employer satisfaction, but created worker dissatisfaction, particularly around the issue of restricted choice of provider.
The department conducted a survey to help it identify and prioritize areas for research, covering the following topics: quality of care, workplace safety, costs, medical management, and return to work. The survey indicated that both business and labor had an interest in researching and developing the use of occupational health services for injured workers.
The Worker’s Compensation Advisory Committee (an on-going statutory committee) endorsed the OHS Project and established a Subcommittee on Health Care to provide input to the project. Committee members provided directions for the research and made decisions on the project’s work. Again L&I contracted with the University of Washington to conduct project research and to generate policy options based on this research.
In summary, the OHS pilot program built on the information learned from outside healthcare facilities and their types of programs, on the Managed Care Pilot Project, and on various research results. No other project had all the elements that the OHS project is aiming to provide its injured workers. The OHS initiative seeks to develop provider incentives, provide free education for physicians in Occupational Health best practices, and teach improvement of clinical management processes that will improve outcomes and return the worker to a productive life. Fundamental to all this is the right of the worker to retain the choice of a physician.
L&I has learned the importance of building partnerships and collaborations with others. Among other groups, it has worked with the Healthcare Subcommittee of the Worker’s Compensation Advisory and the University of Washington’s health services researchers.
After consideration of four different dibs from all over the State, in February 2002, L&I signed the first contract with the Center of Occupational Health and Education, Occupational Health Services, Valley Medical Center, in Renton, WA. Valley Medical Center serviced south King County and parts of Pierce County. Since that time, the COHE has expanded to nearly all counties in Washington State.
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Valley Medical’s Occupational Health Services History
Since 1992, Occupational Health Services at Valley Medical Center has been helping local employers cut employee health and disability costs while maintaining high quality standards for a safe work environment. This unique and dedicated partnership between Valley Medical Center, the employer, employee, labor unions and Occupational Health Services is based on a shared commitment to healthier, more productive workers and safer, more profitable businesses.
Our goal as the COHE is to improve participation of patients in the management and treatment of their occupational health injury.
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