Workers’ compensation will continue to be a concern for your clients in the new year, but you can be proactive in sharing expertise and helping them control costs. “Workers’ comp premiums are skyrocketing,” wrote Scott Woolridge for Property Casualty 360, but you can help your clients try strategies meant to keep their costs down. “Brokers are key players in helping companies find the resources to address cost drivers of workers’ comp,” he wrote. “The brokers who do that extremely well will get a lot more business.” Here are four trends that will help you keep clients’ costs down in 2017.


1. Managing losses and encouraging a return to work
Getting injured employees back to work, even in a reduced capacity, is increasingly seen as an important way to keep costs down. Even if employers accommodate workers with a temporary job or reduced workload, they’re likely to prevent expensive bottlenecks and even future legal action. According to the International Risk Management Institute, “The program should be undertaken with the understanding that it may not be effective in every circumstance, but that, overall, it should pay dividends.”


2. Forging connections with the right providers
Working with doctors who are willing to work with employers to get employees back to work can make a huge difference in the cost of claims. “Employers in many states are barred from requiring workers’ comp claimants to go to a specific clinic, but establishing a relationship with a facility that specializes in work-related conditions provides many benefits to an employer, who can promote that clinic without requiring that patients use it,” Woolridge wrote. “Brokers can play a role by getting to know the medical providers in the area.”


3. Harnessing telemedicine
A visit with a doctor by phone or online offers a new standard in quick treatment for injured workers. “An injury triage hotline [can allow] employers to connect injured employees immediately to health care professionals,” Woolridge wrote.


What’s more, this trend is taking off beyond larger brokers, wrote Paul Binsfield for Insurance Thought Leadership. “The service is now being offered at regional boutique firms as a way to control costs for clients,” he writes. “How medical care is delivered to the injured worker is shifting and, with it, so must we. Digital health-at-large is among the biggest developments that workers’ compensation has been facing in recent years.”


4. Managing pharmaceutical use
Opioid use can be a frequent result of workers’ comp claims, so employers should be thinking of ways to prevent addiction. “We’re seeing more and more workers’ compensation carriers making sure that if claimants are on opioids, that there’s a weaning plan at the onset of that prescription, rather than waiting until there’s an addiction or other issues,” Woolridge wrote, quoting Alexandra Leone, assistant vice president of workforce productivity at Hub International. “Some cost savings could be realized through better management of pharmaceutical benefits.”