Common mistakes employers make when navigating occupational health

With 19 occupational health locations spanning Wisconsin, Aurora Occupational Health, part of Aurora Health Care, offers a range of health services to more than 5,000 employers in manufacturing, restaurants, retail, government and beyond.

The health care provider’s occupational services, which fall under its Employer Solutions Division, include work-related injury treatment and management, drug screening and physicals – services that aim to cushion employers in their day-to-day operations.

At the heart of Aurora Occupational Health’s mission are its priorities of keeping employees safe at work, helping employers comply with regulations and protect their bottom line, helping employers hire the right person for the right job, and helping employers manage injuries and illnesses to keep staffers at work, according to Janine Overeem, senior director of rehabilitation services, occupational health and wellness at Aurora Health Care.

Overeem recently discussed common mistakes that employers make when trying to satisfy their occupational health needs with BizTimes Milwaukee and offered insight into how employers can smoothly navigate their occupational health needs.

Among the common mistakes employers make are:

1. Deciding which provider to partner with based on price alone
“You have to understand what you’re going to get with that price,” Overeem said, warning that occupational health service providers may attempt to offer cheap drug screens but compensate for those low prices on the workers’ compensation side.

For instance, a provider may consult patients longer than necessary or encourage patients to undergo more physical therapy or diagnostic testing than they need, Overeem said.

Providers often get away with these practices, as communication funnels in two different directions. While employers pay for drug screens, workers’ compensation carriers cover injury-related services, unless the employer is self-insured.

When narrowing down a provider for their employees, employers should also take into account how closely that provider’s staff will work with an employer to ensure the needs of its workforce are met, Overeem said.

2. Thinking any physician can be an occupational health physician
A provider that says it has occupational health physicians may not have actual dedicated occupational health doctors, according to Overeem.

One of the elements that sets Aurora Occupational Health apart is the provider’s dedicated focus on occupational health, Overeem said, as well as the pool of additional health services it offers clients to complement its occupational health menu.

Those supplementary services include rehabilitation services geared toward employers, an employee assistance program that connects employees with primary care physicians, and wellness services such as health risk assessments and biometric screenings.

“We have many, many resources to help employers create a healthy workforce, which leads to lower costs,” Overeem said.

On the occupational health side, Aurora’s entire team, including staff in the sales and support veins, concentrate only on occupational health. The provider tackles occupational health with a “holistic team,” according to Overeem.

“That’s important because the whole team really gets to understand the needs of the employers and how regulations affect them,” she said.

3. Fragmenting occupational health services
While it might be tempting for employers to rely on multiple occupational health service providers for the sake of cost, fragmenting these services can impede relations among physicians and the employers and employees they serve, according to Overeem.

“What you want is a provider you can develop a relationship with,” Overeem said.

By juggling occupational health service providers, no one provider can capture an accurate perspective of the gamut of health needs a client has. Nor is it a very convenient option for employers, she said, particularly when trying to maintain fluid communications.

In terms of workers’ compensation, Aurora recognizes that Wisconsin is a right to choose state— employees injured on the job can select their medical provider. So when interacting with employees of clients for other occupational health service needs, the provider’s staff makes a concerted effort to ensure the experience is an excellent one, according to Dr. Mary Jo Capodice, system medical director for Aurora Occupational Health Service.


“It’s important that the employee feels we are advocating for them,” Capodice said.

4. Not reviewing the depths and breadths of employer-related services
In selecting an occupational health service provider, it is critical that employers analyze the scope of services a particular provider offers, according to Overeem.

When assessing the depth of services an occupational health site offers, Overeem said employers should look at what services are available beyond traditional drug screens and physicals. Other services might include nursing case management services in which case managers, who act as stewards of the employer’s work compensation dollars, ensure that an employee hurt on the job continues to progress at a healthy rate and that all parties remain informed of that progress.

Employers should also inquire about random drug consortiums, which hold employees accountable for remaining drug free as providers facilitate random drug screenings, Overeem said.

In considering the breadth of services offered by a provider, it is important that employers consider how many locations a provider has and how convenient those locations are to their business, she said.

5. Believing that all occupational health service providers are created equal
With the variety of ways that occupational health service providers structure their operations, Overeem said employers should look at just how comprehensive a particular provider’s structure is. Important questions to ask within this framework include: Does a provider set up after-hours injury care? If an employee must visit the emergency room after an accident, how does that information travel back to the employer? How is the employee then brought back into the occupational health service system so that his health needs, along with the needs of the employer, are adequately addressed?


Where to start
The first step an employer should take to identify the right occupational health service provider for its team involves reaching out to the sales arms or leadership divisions of providers, according to Overeem.

Many businesses, small businesses in particular, do not have a designated employee who can keep speed with occupational health standards and regulations, so providers and their sales teams can walk employers through the kinds of services they need.

Employers, however, also need to do their due diligence, Overeem said, and ask fundamental questions about providers’ operations and services: Are a provider’s technicians certified in drug testing, breath alcohol testing, hearing screens and other relevant tests? Are a provider’s physicians occupational health specialists? Are any of the physicians board certified in occupational medicine? Does the provider facilitate annual competency checks to ensure medical staff members are performing correctly and are certified?

A Port Washington clinic where Aurora Health Care provides occupational health services

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display