Delays in treatment approval have been shown to impact on recovery outcomes and injured workers' satisfaction with claims processes. In 2014, WorkSafe implemented a new policy that fast-tracked approvals for certain procedures. Researchers were then involved to determine the impact of this policy change on workers, healthcare providers and claims managers.

WorkSafe's new strategy was a direct response to growing concern about the impact of approval delays on injured or ill workers. It also represented a commitment to the reduction of red-tape in compensation system processes.

Treatment delays are one factor contributing to the 'compensation effect'; the finding that compensation processes can result in slower recovery and return to work. This effect has been the focus of other research projects by ISCRR, including most significantly the Health Effects of Compensation Study, which confirmed that over half of compensation claimants experience moderate-to-high stress levels during their claim processes.

Both the TAC and WorkSafe have introduced several important initiatives that seek to address factors contributing to the 'compensation effect.'

At WorkSafe, this included streamlined (rapid approval of) treatment requests for services and products such as elective surgery, radiology, some aids and appliances, and fitness programs.

A research team led by Dr Sjaan Koppel from the Monash Injury Research Institute is now evaluating the impact of this policy change.

Where to now?

The research team has completed interviews with healthcare providers and injured people, a survey of case managers in the Victorian workers' compensation system, and an analysis of compensation claims data. 

The findings are currently being compiled and a report from the study is expected soon.