1:55 am September 14, 2018

The Slow Growth of Big Data for Workplace Injury Prevention

Source: Brian Boyle

Big data and predictive modeling may be buzzwords in other industries, however they seem to be years away from making it to the top of the list for employers in workplace injury prevention. But why is that?

Large employers are already using big data to help them solve logistics and supply chain operations problems. So it would appear using data to build predictive models about where musculoskeletal strains are coming from would offer tremendous value to get ahead of injuries in the workplace. And yet it’s far from mainstream, if being utilized at all?

Silos Exist

Is it because traditionally injury prevention services have been siloed into their own realm? Or is it because no one sees the $13/hour employee in the same light that they see the multi-million-dollar production line? Which can be a limited point of view, considering the potential dollar impact of an injury.

There’s a tremendous opportunity by removing the silo around healthcare and using the same big data and modeling that’s emerging. Imagine the possibilities of modeling with the same simulation software currently used by the engineers in industries such as manufacturing, hospitality and entertainment, and even healthcare?

Predictive Models—What’s Available, More Needed

Predictive programs are starting to appear.  At WorkWell, we developed a multi-dimensional model to help employers use their data and industry data to find the optimal mix of prevention and treatment services.  This clinical-based model, which was field-tested for 5 years using over 70,000 visits, examines fee schedule, claims data, employer outcomes and historical NCCI data. The model has even helped employers shift dollars from treatment to prevention, offering a great example of how using data can make a difference.

But there needs to be more.  By using simulation software the design team can predict how a change in one area or process will effect production, foot traffic, output and so much more. For example, in a manufacturing facility, a software simulation can run an entire shift of production in less than 10 seconds and show how by modifying all or even just a part of a production line can actually increase or decrease the production output based on manipulating variables. Currently, companies are only using this software to improve efficiency in process flow and to track production outcomes. What if it the same software were used to predict potential strains/sprains based on the number of repetitions, the weight handled, the distance an item was moved and so on? What’s that you say, there are already ways to calculate risk factors using that same information? So why isn’t it being incorporated in the simulation software already and that’s the point!

Actions to Take Today

If employers were to look within their own walls, they may find answers to problems. What If they were to task their engineers with not only production design and workflow but also safety of the employee? And what if they were to task their healthcare and ergonomics teams with not only safety of the employee but workflow design and productivity? Consider the possibilities if they put the two teams together to work on the same common agenda using software to help. With new approaches, employers may just be able to have the best of both worlds-production friendly solutions, employee safety bottom line revenue increases.

The big question—how do we change this from wishful thinking to acting today? There are some things you can do today.  For example, using a data model, like the one mentioned earlier from WorkWell, can help you guide the best services to offer, whether that be preventative or reactive. Or continue to use tools, like the NIOSH lifting guidelines and others, to help predict the strain risk of an employee in certain areas and then share that data within the organization to allow the other teams to make better educated decisions. Whatever the case, highly trained and skilled onsite providers can help you with the data and provide many options for employers to stretch today’s silo of healthcare.

Big data offers big potential for workplace injury prevention.  To learn what’s available today, contact WorkWell.

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