Propagating the new work disability paradigm for disability benefits & workers' comp systems

North Dakota

History and Summit Summary

North Dakota held four Summit meetings during the week of September 10, 2007, in Grand Forks, Bismarck, Fargo, and Dickinson.

When the head of North Dakota's workers' compensation state fund -- Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) -- was sent a preview copy of the new ACOEM Guideline on Preventing Needless Work Disability by Helping People Stay Employed, he immediately saw how it could help WSI deliver improved service and challenged his staff to start implementing some of ACOEM's recommendations in their practices and programs.

Once The 60 Summits Project was started, he decided that North Dakota would participate.  WSI was the sole sponsor and host for a series of 4 summits held in September, 2007.  Meetings occurred in Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Fargo, each of which have roughly 100,000 people in their metro areas, as well as Dickinson with about 30,000.

Local employers and healthcare providers were personally invited to attend, along with WSI staff and contracted nurse case managers.  The turn-out was excellent with approximately 85 attendees in each of the larger towns, and almost 50 in Dickinson.  Many good ideas came out of these community-based conversations for how to improve the way the stay-at-work and return-to-work processes functions -- and its outcomes.

In their post-Summit evaluations, more than 80% of attendees agreed that:

  • the workshop had been a good use of their time and effort,
  • they got some new ideas about how doctors and employers can exchange information and actually help ech other make better decisions,
  • having met people at the workshop will help them in the future,
  • they wanted to be part of any follow-up activities.

To download a copy of WSI's report of the proceedings and outcomes, click here.

Post Summit Activity

Following their community Summits, WSI held a series of internal Summits as well out of which came several changes in internal operations. The loss prevention group started helping employers implement return to work programs, and the claims adjusters began informally educating physicians about SAW/RTW during the claims process. In 2009, WSI continued the multi-stakeholder dialogue by holding nine "mini-summits" called Open Forums to promote interaction and exchange of ideas among employers, medical providers and WSI. More than 350 people participated, and that program is continuing in 2010.

WSI has also developed an ergonomic initiative that contracts with local PTs or OTs who go out to employers that have requested assistance to assess the situation and provide a written report. If equipment purchases are necessary, WSI provides a 3:1 match. Lastly, WSI is piloting a "workability project" in which a therapist performs a targeted functional assessment and develops recommendations for activity limitations based on objective findings of that testing prior to a medical visit.

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