The Department of Labor & Industries has finalized new agreements with health-care organizations to provide Centers of Occupational Health and Education (COHEs). COHEs are organizations that improve medical treatment for Washington’s injured workers.
“The COHEs have proven their ability to prevent disability for workers,” said Joel Sacks, L&I director. “By improving occupational health care, they keep valuable workers on the job and reduce costs for employers.”
Two brand-new COHE sponsors include:
• A coalition of 12 health-care organizations led by Franciscan Health System, that will offer COHE services covering all western Washington counties.
• Group Health Cooperative, which will provide services to injured workers at 11 clinics in western Washington and one in Spokane. Patients do not need to be members of Group Health to see doctors in these clinics for work-related injuries or illnesses.
L&I has also renewed contracts with the four existing COHEs:
• Renton COHE at Valley Medical Center, serving parts of King and Pierce counties.
• Eastern Washington COHE, based at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane and involving medical providers throughout Eastern Washington.
• The Everett Clinic, with nine clinics in Snohomish County.
• Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, with COHE services at its trauma center and many of its clinics.
The COHEs provide training and organizational support to medical providers to increase their use of best practices in treating injured workers. These best practices focus on safely returning workers to full function and full employment. Examples of best practices include talking with the employer about return to work and regularly assessing a worker’s ability to do work activities.
A 2011 study found that injured workers treated by COHE-affiliated health-care providers are away from work for 20 percent fewer days than other injured workers. COHE care also reduces disability and medical costs by $510 per claim during the first year.
The new agreements are a major step towards meeting a legislative requirement to expand COHE services to all injured workers statewide by 2015, part of the 2011 workers’ comp reform.