Crisis and critical incidents: clinical resource response

October 10, 2023

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The landscape of crisis and critical incident response within the claims industry is expanding. Where once teams managed cases almost exclusively involving the critically injured, new layers of care and response are emerging that address the “ripple effect” of trauma experienced by third parties, bystanders and witnesses to a crisis.

This broadening of both definition and services by critical incident response teams stems from an increase in new client demands in the aftermath of an incident—specifically, by individuals not directly related to the incident. For example, demand for treatment services may come not just from somebody who has had a severe fall at work, but from individuals who witnessed the fall or shared an environment with the injured worker at the time of the incident and been impacted by the event.

At Sedgwick, our approach to crisis care has shifted to include a broader spectrum of cases and claimants that reflect these trends. The rise in popularity of recovery program components like behavioral health services signals not only impacts for employers navigating return to work procedures, but an industry-wide embrace of viewing recovery and treatment through a holistic lens of overall well-being. If we can understand how an event impacts a person’s life, the thinking goes, we can provide more targeted care solutions and get them on a faster road to recovery. It is a modern but structured approach to crisis care that is resulting in better claims outcomes and happier, healthier customers.

Role of the practitioner in recovery

The case management process begins when crisis care specialists are contacted by claims staff or clients directly. Immediate needs may be obvious, as when an injured worker is hospitalized. A field case manager may be dispatched to the hospital where the injured has been admitted overseeing triage service with regular medical updates. Once the injured worker is discharged, a nurse may be assigned to assist with case management for post hospital care needs. Alternatively, claimants may seek different avenues of case management outside of critical injury, such as behavioral health services management, or in instances where multiple practitioners may be involved, and the claimant needs assistance facilitating setup of a care network. 

Case management is an intricate part of the recovery process. Especially for injured persons who just want to focus on getting better, case managers really serve to take the pressure off — whether it is by educating injured workers on their recovery rights, ensuring continuity of treatment services, or simply acting as a reliable touchpoint for communications during what can be an otherwise lonesome and isolating time.

One type of practitioner as in-demand for recovery services (after physicians and nurses) are behavioral health services providers, including licensed mental health clinicians. The difficulty of returning to “normal life” following a traumatic incident can be pronounced. Claimants may have anxiety about returning to a workplace where they witnessed a catastrophic event. Others may be facing a longer road to recovery after suffering catastrophic injuries. Behavioral health professionals are coming into focus not just as an essential facilitator of return-to-work, but as agents for overall health improvement.

The trend toward a holistic view of care means a variety of practitioners can apply their specialties to better identify potential barriers to care (preexisting conditions, family structure), uncovering in the process how individual lives are affected by crisis, and tailor treatment solutions accordingly.

Employers’ role in improving return to work 

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic changed how employers approach policies around absenteeism, disability leave and return to work. The diagnosis of “long COVID,” for example, compelled employees and employers to come to the table and reevaluate how employee roles might be adjusted to ensure they can work if they want to and so productivity losses are avoided. 

From a crisis care perspective, standards relating to recovery time and return to work have not changed. However, there is a greater awareness that crisis recovery is complicated, as employers learn more about what their workers need, and as mental wellness becomes more of a central discussion point. A positive outcome of the pandemic’s effect on the workplace definitely includes more of an openness to talk about these care points as potential barriers to return to work, as well as successful outcomes relating to management of employee disabilities and improved integration of these individuals into operations. 

For those employees in recovery who will be able to return to work eventually, employers can take a proactive approach to accommodations. In other words, what are the best options for getting this employee back to work? Thinking outside the box about what can help from the individual’s perspective and maintaining open communication will support greater employee satisfaction in the long term.

Most injured workers recovering from a crisis or critical incident want to get back to work as soon as possible; their routine represents normalcy. That said, the last thing employers want to do while transitioning an employee back to work is retraumatize or re-trigger the individual. People can relapse after a crisis so it is important to set realistic expectations early on.

Create a successful return to work plan by optimizing an employee’s capacities in combination with the right resources at the right time. Employers will see enhanced productivity and potentially improved health outcomes. The sooner a purpose and interpersonal engagement can be re-introduced into an employee’s life, the better the likelihood of a successful return to work transition.

Learn more > Our behavioral health solutions identify and address work-related injuries and traumatic eventsin an effort to help employees get the care they need to recover and return to work.

Tags: Behavioral health, clinical approach, Employee, employee health, employer, health, Helping people, Managed care, Mental health, People, Productivity, Return to work, Wellbeing, Wellness, World Mental Health Day