Rationale for Neurocognitive Testing in the Workplace
According to the US Department of Labor by the year 2020, about 25% of the U.S. workforce will be composed of workers aged 55 and over. Given the realities of an aging workforce, many employee wellness programs now promote maintaining one’s “brain health” is as important as maintaining a healthy physical status. As the focus shifts to preventative medicine in healthcare, cognitive testing is just as important as a physical check-up, or a screen for diseases. In addition, brain health is frequently one of the primary issues affecting an employee’s ability to return to work after an injury. Considerations of whether an employee is “fit for duty” after an illness or injury have significant economic and organizational implications for employers and insurers.
Employers in the private sector primarily use neurocognitive testing to drive employee productivity and workplace safety.
Driving Employee Productivity through Corporate Wellness
Enticing employees to take care of their health makes good business sense. Typically, companies have focused on reducing known physical risk factors (i.e., smoking, obesity, diabetes) through specific wellness-at-work programs. Forward thinking companies are turning their attention to assessing neurocognitive status as part of these wellness programs. Since many jobs rely on knowledge work, creativity, and communication skills, it’s not enough to have workers sitting at their desks — they must also be mentally sharp.
Research suggests that concussions, learning disorders, certain medications, and other mental health issues such as Attention Deficit Disorder and even depression and stress, can all impact cognition. Our ability to think affects everything we do, therefore it’s important for insurers/employers to ensure that their insured/employees, at any age, have their cognitive acuity tested.
Driving Workplace Safety through Occupation Medicine
Problems with cognition can impact the ability to meet deadlines, complete work related tasks accurately, or engage safely in essential work related tasks so as not to endanger self, co-workers, or customers.
One of the most difficult decisions for a physician in occupational medicine is when to return an employee to work and then to their job after an injury or illness. By utilizing ImPACT Workplace, the physician now has a tool to empirically determine when the employee has returned to his or her pre-injury/illness level of functioning. While there are many other factors that go into the decision to return an employee to his or her employment, ImPACT performance can provide important data to corroborate or refute the employee's reported symptom state and functional capacity.
One of the most significant issues in workman’s compensation is that of malingering. Given the significant financial issues and the number of workdays lost to malingering, ImPACT Workplace can be a useful tool to reduce losses in both these categories. By helping physicians and neuropsychologists identify potential malingerers, insurers and employers could realize significant cost savings. In independent studies, ImPACT has been shown to be virtually foolproof from feigning bad suggesting that malingering patients would have a very difficult time faking poor performance.
Incorporating ImPACT Workplace at Your Place of Work
While many employers and health care providers want to incorporate a neurocognitive evaluation into their health and wellness programs or into their return to work protocols, they don’t know of an efficient, convenient and cost effective way to do so.
Some companies offer ImPACT Workplace as an employee benefit. Others mandate neurocognitive testing for select employees in high-risk positions due to the complexity of their job or because they are in a position to place others at risk.
In 2012 the CDC, in an advisory on return to work issues, stated that “return-to-work planning should be based upon careful evaluation of symptoms and neurocognitive status.” The CDC also recommended repeated evaluation of both symptoms and cognitive status to help guide management considerations. Neurocognitive evaluation is common not only after a worker has had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), but also after incidences of many other disorders and diseases including both mental health (i.e., depression, ADHD, schizophrenia) and physical health (i.e., surgery, cardiovascular disease).