Hungry to improve RTW?

RTWMatters team

The researchers at the Insurance Work and Health Group at Monash University are offering a fantastic professional development opportunity: a two-day course on Return to Work: Evidence and Innovation

RTW professionals are often as hungry to compare notes with their peers as they are to learn about the latest research.

A new opportunity from the Insurance Work and Health Group (IWHG) at Monash University ticks both these boxes, in the form of a two-day interactive course to be held in Melbourne on 23-24 October, 2019: Return to Work: Evidence and Innovation

The course has been designed for RTW professionals: think RTW coordinators, insurance case managers, rehab professionals and treaters, as well as those who manage all of the above. It will be presented by Australia’s leading researchers in the area of RTW and workers’ compensation, including Professor Alex Collie

Practical insights from the latest research will be shared. Evidence about what works in RTW, red flags that help predict obstacles along the way, and some of the key challenges facing Australian RTW professionals are all topics on the table. 

“We don’t want our research evidence to sit in research-land, failing to change things in the real world,” Alex told Return To Work Matters recently. “We want to see it make a difference for Australian workers and businesses.”

The experts from the IWHG will also be serving up a dose of inspiration, sharing good news stories about innovations currently underway within the sector.

“People who come should expect to get involved,” Alex told us. “It’s not just talking heads. We want them to learn as much from each other as they do from the researchers and industry leaders who’ll be presenting.”

Attendees will be encouraged to compare experiences of working in RTW. They’ll also design their own interactive RTW systems, highlighting the outcomes that follow from different choices.

Dr Mary Wyatt, occupational physician and publisher of Return to Work Matters, believes course participants will be in good hands.

“Alex and his team at the IWHG are the experts on RTW and workers’ compensation in the Australian context,” she says.

“They know what it takes to promote good outcomes and avoid some of the common pitfalls. They’re genuinely interested in the experiences of Australian RTW professionals, and strongly motivated to secure better outcomes for all RTW stakeholders through education and community-building.”

Alex has told RTWMatters that he is motivated to share the clear evidence about best practice injury management.

“We know a lot about what works and what doesn’t. The challenge is implementing that knowledge in practice. There’s a lot of potential to improve RTW outcomes in Australia. Our aim is to show people the areas to focus on, areas that will help improve results.

“There’s now strong evidence that the practices of insurers, case managers, and RTW Coordinators have a really significant effect on RTW. Things like the time they take to make decisions on claims and decisions about things within claims really matter. Communication is another big one. The way insurers design their communications with injured workers has a big impact on the course and duration of a claim.”

“We’ve also got a similar message around employers. The employer probably has the strongest ability to influence the RTW process. If we can support employers to use an evidence-informed approach, we’ll go to go a long way to improving outcomes.

“Thirdly, we’ve established that, for people with complex claims and complex circumstances, multidisciplinary RTW programs are vital. Successful RTW programs involve the employer, insurer and health care providers. Going it alone isn’t effective, and nor is putting all your eggs in one basket. You need to do things in a coordinated way. This isn’t always easy or simple, but it can have a big impact.”

Alex’s colleague at the IWHG, Dr Shannon Gray, agrees. 

“Each stakeholder has a role to play in improving RTW outcomes, especially when we’re looking at sustainable rather than temporary RTW. It’s not just the RTW coordinator who is responsible. Greater involvement from health care workers, the insurer and co-workers, for example, can contribute to better results.”

More information about the Insurance Work and Health Group

The Insurance Work and Health Group (IWHG) was established by Professor Alex Collie in mid-2017. It’s part of the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.

Alex is an applied public health and social policy researcher. He focuses on injury and illness compensation systems and their impact on the work, social and health outcomes of injured and ill people.

Alex wanted to create a hub for research and education into the systems of insurance people interact with when they’re ill, injured and unable to work. This includes workers’ compensation, but also social security (e.g. Centrelink), life insurance and others. 

Alex says that there isn’t a lot of evidence out there about the best ways to design and manage these systems of insurance, despite the fact that they impact pretty much everyone in society.

The IWHG is working to rectify this situation, building an evidence base that informs the development of insurance policies and practices that promote good health and sustainable employment. Many of Australia’s leading researchers into RTW and workers’ compensation are part of the IWHG, including Dr Shannon Gray.

You can read our take on some examples of IWHG research here and here.

But even with all this high quality research underway, there’s another challenge: bridging the gap between evidence and practice.

To this end, the IWHG has advised government on a number of projects, including the WorkCover Queensland “Recovery Blueprint” project and the Compensation Policy and Return to Work Effectiveness (COMPARE) project supported by Safe Work Australia and WorkSafe Victoria. For more information on these and other initiatives, go here.

And – as of 2019 – the IWHG is also taking the message straight to the coalface, offering educational opportunities for the people who deal directly with injured or ill people. We encourage our readers to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity.  You can register for Return to Work: Evidence and Innovation here.

Published 23 July, 2019 | Updated 30 July, 2019