Featured Blogger - Rebecca Shafer: How to Use a Medical Doctor Proactively to Get Employees Back to Work Sooner

Featured Blogger - Rebecca Shafer: How to Use a Medical Doctor Proactively to Get Employees Back to Work Sooner

Hello, as the "featured blogger" this week, I'll be writing on topics that relate to workers' compensation cost containment.  Some will be basic, some advanced.  Please let me know if there's anything in particular you would like me to focus on and I'll do my best to accommodate you.  Write to me at:  RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

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1- Establish a cooperative relationship with the medical provider. What is key is having the medical advisor available to call the treating physician. This step must be set up in advance so the medical advisor is very responsive and can take quick action when an injury occurs.

2- A medical advisor can contact the treating physician prior to the exam. The medical advisor can let the treating physician know the patient is coming and ask him or her to call the medical advisor back after the exam. The medical advisor may ask specific medical questions, to help distinguish a work-related injury from non-work related injury. If the treating physician knows he will be speaking to the medical advisor he or she may take a more careful history and be more aware of getting the worker back to work. It is like having an attorney talk to another attorney to discuss the litigation strategy. This is more effective than having the paralegal call the attorney to discuss litigation strategy, isn’t it? Of course!

3- The medical advisor can suggest something the treating physician may not do routinely. Depending on the type of injury, the medical advisor might suggest the treating physician do a particular “Waddell test” if symptom magnification is suspected. Giving background such as letting the doctor know the worker is unhappy with the job situation can be helpful.

4- Treating doctors should give medical restrictions and then the company decides if the employee can return to work, if the company can accommodate the physical restrictions. It is helpful to let the doctor know a company can accommodate nearly all restrictions.

5- Ask them to not give “off duty” – just give medical restrictions for every worker. If he is contemplating taking someone off work, give the employer (through the medical advisor) medical restrictions – unless a worker is bedridden. The doctor should keep in mind that a worker may not even know the company can accommodate him; he may be unaware there is a transitional duty program. Once there are medical restrictions, it is then up to the workplace to determine if they can make those accommodations and how they will make them.

6- Make sure the physical restriction form is easy. It is easier to fill out a simple form with checkboxes that nearly all doctors are familiar with such as “lifting: heavy/ medium/ light, pushing or pulling, sitting, standing” and a space for the doctor to write in any additional comments.  Most occupational clinics have their own forms, so if that form provides the necessary information, consider using it because the doctors are familiar with it.

7- It does not have to be a “recordable” claim. If the treating physician is familiar with the OSHA rules, he/she will know that if the incident is just first aid, that medications needed by the worker are over-the-counter, and physical therapy (often over-prescribed) is not ordered, then the incident is not OSHA recordable since it is first aid. If they are not familiar with these rules, the medical advisor could educate them about those requirements.

I hope this provides insight about how to utilize your in-house medical doctors more proactively. For nearly 20 years, I have used a medical advisor in my cost containment projects and the average reduction in loss costs is 20-50%. Using the MD’s proactively has greatly contributed to that success rate.  

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