Apr 29, 2024

5 Steps to Build a Successful Industrial Rehabilitation Program

Are you a rehabilitation clinic aiming for a thriving industrial rehab program? Are you seeking more workers' compensation referrals for acute therapy, work hardening/conditioning, or Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCEs)?

It's a smart move, considering that workers' compensation is among the highest reimbursing insurances across the United States. To boost profits and clinical revenue in today’s PT landscape, having a diverse payment mix is crucial, and expanding your workers' comp referrals is an excellent strategy. Achieving a successful industrial rehab program—profitable with positive patient outcomes—requires a thorough understanding of the workers’ compensation patient population and the stakeholders involved in their treatment.

Treating work comp patients in the clinic is unique due to the involvement of multiple stakeholders. Unlike other patient populations, such as group health or Medicare, where you primarily deal with the patient and physician, with workers' comp patients, you may interact with insurance adjusters, third-party administrators (TPAs), nurse case managers, employers, and attorneys, alongside the treating physician.

So, how can a practice establish a successful and profitable industrial rehab program?

Here are five steps:

1. Form a multidisciplinary team with specialized education

Ensure your practice has a multidisciplinary clinical team capable of providing high-level and specialized care to workers' comp patients. This team should identify and progress patients into higher-level services such as work hardening/work conditioning and FCEs. Multidisciplinary services can involve PTs, PTAs, OTs, COTAs, and Athletic Trainers. Once the team is assembled, provide specialized industrial rehabilitation training and education.

2. Initiate early intervention with individualized treatment plans focusing on functional rehabilitation

Early intervention, starting from day one of treatment, is essential for preventing prolonged disability and promoting faster recovery and return to work. Conduct a thorough evaluation on the patient's first day of therapy, emphasizing their full-duty job requirements. The treatment plan should prioritize improving mobility, and strength, stabilizing pain, and addressing job demands impacted by the referring diagnosis. As therapy progresses, shift focus towards improving the patient’s work-related skills to assess their ability to perform job duties safely and effectively. If deficits persist, consider progressing them to specialized programs.

3. Establish partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders

Engage in open communication and collaboration with other stakeholders involved in a case, including insurance claims adjusters, third-party administrators, nurse case managers, and potentially work comp attorneys. This will foster a more coordinated approach to the patient’s care. Regular communication with primary stakeholders can help progress patients through the program, especially if they would benefit from higher-level services.

Also, call the adjuster or case manager after the initial evaluation and after all the progress notes. A conversation can go a long way and it can build relationships that can bring in more referrals in the future.

4. Implement outcome measurement and quality assurance metrics

Our current healthcare system and insurance payors require rehabilitation professionals to practice evidence-based treatment interventions. Therefore, objective measurement of functional performance concerning job demands is critical throughout an industrial rehabilitation program. Key metrics to track include:

  • Average function at initial evaluation (job demands match %)
  • Average % increase in function (through the entire duration of care)
  • Average function at discharge (job demands match %)
  • Average length of care
  • Average number of visits

Tracking this data for your outpatient therapy and work conditioning programs is critical to track at regular intervals to assess participant outcomes.

5. Market and promote your industrial rehab program

Develop a marketing and outreach strategy to raise awareness of your industrial rehabilitation program among potential employers, healthcare providers, work comp attorneys, TPAs, and other stakeholders. Highlight the program's benefits, staff expertise, and outcomes.

Five easy steps lead to success

Implementing these five steps will facilitate the development of a successful industrial rehab program tailored to the needs of this unique patient population. If you seek further guidance on enhancing your current program or jump-starting a new one, feel free to contact us at OccuPro. We're here to assist you in determining advanced training that meets your specific needs or provides support to foster program growth.

Paige Shafer, MS, OTR/L, CFCE, CEAS
Clinical Account Executive