October 9, 2019
By Rebecca Batisto
It seems everyone is wearing a fitness tracker these days. From wrist bands to watches to rings to apps on phones, it seems we’re all obsessed with getting to 10,000 steps each day. Fitness trackers, or wearables, are also getting more sophisticated as consumers want more complete pictures of their health. Heart rate, sleep cycles, calories burned, and steps climbed can all be easily logged.
So if movement, heart rate, and other physical indicators are being tracked, logged, and reported, can they help employers with workers’ compensation claims and coverage? Companies are looking to wearable technology to help improve safety in the workplace and reduce injuries by gathering feedback about employee activity during the workday.
As wearable technology develops, some can also track environmental conditions like humidity, temperature, and light in addition to physical data. These additional data points are helping to create a complete picture of an employee’s work and provide the company with unfiltered input. Companies can use this data to provide feedback to employees, thereby signaling them to take a break, for instance.
It’s widely accepted that most workers’ compensation claims are the result of pushing/pulling injuries as well as falls, slips, and trips. The areas of the body most often affected are the fingers, lower back, shoulders, and knees, while serious injuries occur to the head, brain, spine, and neck.
Technology partners are in the proof of concept stage for creating wearable devices that let employees know when they are lifting improperly, or are doing something unsafe. These wearable developers are also investigating creating dashboards to provide trends and aggregated biofeedback to assist both employees and employers in maintaining safe work environments. Advances will soon be applied to the prevention of workplace injuries and reduction in claims.
Wearable technology can also be instrumental in an employee’s road to recovery. Professional sports are already incorporating wearables to monitor athletes. Some devices are even collecting enough input to make recommendations on which activities should or should not be done based on data.
With this technology already assisting elite athletes, it stands to reason that wearable technology will continue to be adopted by mainstream users. Orthopedic doctors, rehabilitation professionals, and other specialists also want to monitor their patients’ recovery progress.
Moving to the widespread use of wearables is not without its hurdles. Employers will have to address privacy concerns, specifically those around how data is shared and with whom. Further, data that is shared is by nature vulnerable to hacking so employers, providers, and employees will have to team up on the solution.
With a minimal potential downfall, it seems that employees will benefit from increased safety, employers from decreased injuries, and the industry will gain a better picture of the workdays of individuals.
If you are considering how workers’ compensation is evolving, given emerging technologies, talk to one of our specialists to learn what actions you can take. We can support you in determining the appropriate amount of workers compensation coverage as well as processes in the workplace. Contact us today!