Frequently asked questions for faculty and staff members
WorkConnections is an integrated disability management program developed by the University of Michigan to assist you—and your supervisor—when you've had an illness or injury that prevents you from working. The program will provide assistance through your recovery and help facilitate your return to work.
WorkConnections acts as a liaison with other programs and services at the University to ensure that you, and your supervisor, have convenient and centralized access to a wide variety of resources. These resources include everything from coordinating the services of nurses, vocational rehabilitation counselors, therapists, physicians, and other professionals interested in your recovery to providing you with return-to-work support such as job analysis and ergonomic consultations.
There is no cost to use the services offered by WorkConnections.
WorkConnections staff will assist and support you and your supervisor in the following ways during the recovery period:
- Contact you and your supervisor on a regular basis and act as a central clearinghouse for information
- Communicate with your physicians and define options for treatment and what we can do to assist you during your recovery
- Respond to your department's questions about your absence, benefits, and expected duration of disability
- Act as a liaison between you, your supervisor, and other departments to respond to questions about benefits, employment status, salary, and other issues that may arise
- Explore options for assistance from other University resources
- Provide appropriate updates to you, your supervisor, and your physician as needed
- Answer questions and provide health resources information to you, if needed
WorkConnections is responsible for administration of Workers' Compensation benefits and can answer any questions you may have about these benefits. Your claims representative will also act as a liaison to help you understand other benefits to which you may be entitled and coordinate communication with the appropriate offices.
Workers' Compensation provides for benefits conforming to state law, which may include wage replacement, medical, and rehabilitation benefits to employees who are injured or become ill as a result of a job-related injury (including death), or disease related to work.
What about confidentiality of health information? Could WorkConnections ever share medical information with my supervisor against my wishes?
Your health information belongs to you and WorkConnections guards it appropriately. This means that your medical information is kept secure, private, and out of public view. Medical information is never sent to your home department. Maintaining appropriate confidentiality is a fundamental principle of the program. Health information will be released only in the following circumstances:
- With written authorization from you
- When a strict need to know is established (e.g., for health/safety reasons, or to make employment status decisions)
- To comply with the requirements of the Workers' Disability Compensation Act
WorkConnections services are designed to help you manage your disability and safe return to work. Authorizing WorkConnections to obtain your medical information enables us to meet certain University requirements in order to expedite payment of your sick time or other disability benefits. In addition, developing a relationship with your treatment team and obtaining complete medical information is critical to coordinating an effective plan to help you.
As an employee, you are responsible for providing sufficient medical documentation to justify an absence. WorkConnections assists you by identifying what medical documentation is needed and, with authorization from you, will request it from providers on your behalf.
No, but providing authorization allows WorkConnections to assist you in obtaining all information necessary for your department to authorize the payment of sick time and determine your ability to work.
Yes. Authorization may be revoked in writing at any time.
You may voluntarily choose, at any time, to discuss a medical situation with your supervisor or co-workers. This is a personal choice and is not required. In many cases, though, sharing this information may lead to a great deal of support and encouragement.
HIPAA is a federal law developed to improve the portability of health care coverage for people who lose or change employment, promote administrative simplification through the use of electronic transactions, and ensure the security and privacy of personal health information.
Under HIPAA regulations, can a doctor or treating facility send medical documentation without written authorization?
- For work-related illness and injuries, medical documentation can be provided pursuant to the Workers' Disability Compensation Act. It's best, however, to sign the Authorization to Release Patient Information Form, since medical conditions may overlap and the absence of complete medical information could result in a delay of services.
- For non-work-related illnesses and injuries, the Authorization to Release Patient Information Form is required.
Supervisors who understand an employee's medical issues are often able to provide more support and assistance in identifying return to work options. For this reason, WorkConnections encourages employees to disclose information about their medical condition to their supervisor.
Our primary objective is to provide assistance and support to you and facilitate your safe return to work. If there is a disagreement, discuss your concerns with your claims representative or the WorkConnections supervisor. We will work with you to understand your concerns and find a solution.
WorkConnections' objective is to facilitate a safe and lasting return to work. Our staff will work with you, your supervisor, and your physician to:
- Help evaluate essential functions of the job and anticipate needs for accommodations, if required
- Develop and discuss a return-to-work (RTW) plan with you, your supervisor, and your physician
- Maintain regular contact with you to coordinate your return-to-work (RTW) plan
- Follow up on medical progress and assist with any medical issues after you return to work
An RTW or return-to-work plan is developed—with assistance from WorkConnections—by you, your supervisor and your treatment team. Among other things, it includes information about any physical restrictions such as lifting or sitting for protracted periods of time along with a target date on which you'll be fully recovered and able to assume your regular duties.