Occupational therapy (OT) doesn’t top too many lists of most important healthcare benefits, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. April is Occupational Therapy Month, the perfect time to take stock of the part OT plays in helping employees safely and confidently return to work following a sickness, surgery, injury, or other physical trauma.
“Returning to work after an injury or illness can be a particularly challenging time for those who are still recovering, especially if they are experiencing gaps in their ability to be independent in their work life,” said Dr. Jennifer Chambers, chief medical officer at Capital BlueCross. “Occupational therapists support individuals through their recovery, providing therapy and other interventions that allow a person to return to work as fully and quickly as possible.”
Occupational therapy targeted toward workplace tasks can take place at the office or work site, but also at home, at rehab centers, or at wellness centers.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, OT offers several benefits to an employee in recovery. Following an injury, illness, or medical procedure that inhibits physical mobility, occupational therapists can help an employee maintain quality of life, prevent or lessen the risk of future injury or illness, assist employees in learning to handle their routine work duties, and suggest modifications to accommodate an employee’s physical limitations and boost productivity.
Together with employers, occupational therapists can create and help execute individualized plans for employees who need OT, evaluate a plan’s successes or shortcomings, and make adjustments.
To group employers and individuals covered by its standard plans, Capital BlueCross offers several occupational therapy benefits, including:
- Evaluation and treatment to help restore the ability to accomplish work and daily-living tasks.
- Rehabilitative services and devices to help a person regain, maintain, or improve lost or impaired skills.
- Task-oriented therapeutic activities to significantly and measurably improve the individual’s level of functioning within a reasonable period of time.
- Education and instruction to ultimately transfer therapeutic responsibility to the patient or caregiver so treatment can continue at work or home.
“Occupational therapists have many roles in the healthcare community,” Dr. Chambers said. “They provide supports for older adults experiencing physical or cognitive changes, help children with disabilities participate fully in school life and activities, and help people recovering from injury or illness return to their lives, including their work lives.”