Employers who let the injured employees control their own medical care have higher workers compensation medical costs then the employers who are actively involved in the medical care of the injured workers. There are numerous techniques an employer can use to properly control and direct the medical care provided to injured employees.
The states are about even divided between states where employers select the medical provider(s) and the states where the employee chooses the medical provider. Some states even try to give both the employer and the employee a voice in the selection of the medical providers by the use of doctor panels. In the states that use a doctor panel, the employer selects a group of doctors, and the employee then selects a doctor from the employer’s group of doctors (panel).
The first action an employer should take is to identify the reputable, conservative doctors in their area. Both the nurse case management team and the defense counsel can provide you with valuable information on which doctors you can trust, and which doctor’s rely on referrals from plaintiff attorneys for their income. Start with having defense counsel provide you with a list of recommended emergency clinics, general practice doctors and orthopedics, then have the nurse case management team cull the list to remove any doctors that are difficult to get along with and/or keep the employees off longer than necessary. Defense counsel can also tell you if you are in one of the few states that allow absolutely no input by the employer in the selection of the medical provider.
There are additional important considerations in determining the doctor that should be considered. You want the doctor(s) to be and do the following.
- responsive to the employee’s medical needs
- spend the necessary time with the injured employees
- have flexibility in scheduling appointments for the employees
- review the job descriptions in order to provide light duty work as soon as feasible
- have a professional and pleasant manner
Post the list of preferred medical providers on the bulletin board for everyone to see. (Some states require a particular format or poster design for the posting of workers comp doctors; check the specific state requirements for formatting the list of medical providers). In the states where the employer has the right to designate the medical provider or is required to post a panel of doctors, the list should be titled “Required Medical Provider(s)”. In the states where the employee selects the medical provider the list should be title “Recommended Medical Providers”. Some networks have exceptional doctors noted, so if these doctors are available consider including them in the panel. [WCx]
Establish rapport and dialogue with the medical providers (they will be glad you do as it makes their jobs easier) before the injuries occur. The medical providers will remember you, as way too many employers have no interaction at all with them. The medical providers will understand that you care about the general welfare of the employees and you care about getting the employees back to work. When you show an interest in the employee’s medical care several positive things occur including.
- medical reports are provided to you timely
- you gain cooperation with the return-to-work program
- phone calls are returned
- any forms or documents you need completed get done
There are many other steps the employer should take to control and direct the medical care of injured workers. The new 2012 edition of Manage Workers Compensation Program, Reduced Costs 20-50% has an entire chapter on directing medical care. The book includes both Ten Considerations for Your Company Doctor and Eleven Reasons NOT to Select a Doctor. Please contact us for your copy.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Manage Your Workers Compensation: Reduce Costs 20-50% www.WCManual.com. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
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