These are some thoughts from a doctor’s perspective on how to make your employees’ medical visits more productive.
Establish a cooperative relationship beforehand. It is essential that your medical advisor is available to call the injured employee’s treating physician. This is a step that must be set up in advance so the medical advisor is very responsive and can take quick action when an injury occurs.
Have the Medical Advisor contact the treating physician prior to the exam.
The medical advisor can let the treating physician know that the injured employee is coming and ask the doctor to call the medical advisor back after the exam. The medical advisor may ask specific medical questions, such as asking that the exam be conducted so that it helps distinguish a work-related injury from a non-work related injury. This may make the treating physician take a more careful history and be more aware of getting the person back to work. Of course, the medical advisor must have a signed medical release from the injured employee before contacting the treating physician.
The medical advisor can suggest something outside of the routine. Depending on the type of injury, the advisor might suggest a particular Waddell test if symptom magnification is suspected. “Waddell’s signs” are used to judge pain and injury behavior. Giving background such as letting the doctor know the worker is unhappy with the job situation can be helpful.
Treating Doctors should give medical restrictions.
The company then decides if they can accommodate the physical restrictions so that the employee can return to work. It is helpful to let the doctor know a company can accommodate nearly all restrictions.
Ask them to not give just “off duty” as a medical restriction.
If the doctor is contemplating taking someone off work, have them give specific medical restrictions unless the worker is bedridden. The restrictions should be as detailed as possible about what the injured worker can and cannot do, such as lifting, carrying, walking, standing and sitting. The doctor should keep in mind that a worker may not even know the company can make accommodations or that there is a transitional duty program. Ask the doctor specifically what accommodations could be made to allow the employee to return to work. The doctor may not have even considered that an employee who is restricted from driving may telecommute or that an ergonomic workstation may help an injured employee with back pain perform a transitional job.
Once there are medical restrictions, it is then up to the workplace to decide if they want to make those accommodations and how they will make them.
However, be aware that refusing to make “reasonable accommodations” may open up the employer to a discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN), a free service funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) can help answer these questions.
Make sure the physical restriction form is easy to complete.
It is easier to fill out a simple form with check boxes or items to circle that nearly all doctors are familiar with such as: “Lifting: heavy/ medium/ light”, “pushing or pulling”, sitting and standing time durations and a space for the doctor to write in any additional comments. Ask the doctor to complete your Work Ability Form.
The medical advisor or employer should request a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE). This is a physical examination assessing a person’s capacity for physical exertion and range of motion activities. Sometimes, FCEs are done by physical therapy operations, which is also a good option. The treating physician orders the FCE.
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 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, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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