Here are some thoughts, from a doctor’s perspective, on how to make your employees’ medical appointments more productive:
First, establish a cooperative relationship with the injured employee’s physician of record (POR). It is essential that you are available to call the treating physician. This is a step that must be set up in advance. You should be able to take quick action when an injury occurs, along with letting the MCO know about the injury.
Contact the treating physician before the exam. It’s always good to inform the treating physician that the injured employee is coming for an exam. Ask the doctor to make sure the employee signs the proper releases and call you back after the exam or treatment. By asking specific medical questions you’ll ensure that the exam will be conducted in such a way that it helps distinguish a work-related injury from a non-work related injury. Take a detailed medical history and make suggestions how to get the employee back to work as soon as possible, even if it is on light duty.
You can suggest particular tests. Depending on the type of injury, you 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.
Get the treating physician to give specific medical restrictions. Have the doctor be as specific as possible about the injured employee’s exact limitation. 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. The most common form is the BWC Medco-14 form.
Urge the treating physician to be specific with medical restrictions – not just “off duty”. If the doctor is contemplating taking someone off work, have them give specific medical restrictions unless the worker is bedridden. 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 that the employer can accommodate nearly all restrictions. 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.