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More injured workers are forgoing hospital surgeries, according to new research from the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
There has been an overall shift away from hospital care in workers comp systems across 18 states, with more workers receiving care at less-expensive ambulatory surgical centers and other nonhospital settings, according to the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based institute.
Using data from 2002 to 2016, nearly all study states saw a downturn in the percentage of claims with both hospital inpatient and outpatient services. Researchers noted that several states such as North Carolina and California have introduced medical fee schedule changes and other reforms that caused payers to reconsider more expensive hospital care as a first resort, according to the studies released in November.
Technological advances now in place at surgical centers and other nonhospital locations help fuel the trend away from hospital care for injured workers, according to the studies. Lower prices at surgical centers also spur the trend as WCRI data shows that care in the nonhospital setting is typically 40% less expensive than that at hospitals.
The states in the study included California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Back injuries — one of the most common injuries in workers compensation — are getting a treatment do-over as doctors, payers and other experts urge injured workers to wait on surgery and opt for conservative care first.