Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Comprehensive Occupational Medicine Plans Are Wave of Future

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Comprehensive Occupational Medicine Plans Are Wave of Future

Article excerpt

Someone once said: "Chaos is afoot in the land, and there is great opportunity." That seems like a particularly appropriate comment regarding workers compensation health care costs in Oklahoma. Importantly though, it recognizes the opportunity to overcome chaos.

Since most Oklahoma companies are not in the business of delivering health care, the availability of occupational medicine providers who can meet the needs of purchasers is a key issue. There are increasing numbers of choices among occupational medicine providers.

Quality experts identify three key components to health care value. First: the structure of resources in terms of facility and professionals. Second: the ongoing process between patient and staff, which includes access to care and standardized treatment protocols. Third: outcomes of treatment _ residual impairment, return to work, alleviation of pain.

There are two critical issues when reviewing the structure of resources in the occupational medicine program. First: the program should be networked across the range of needed services to provide high levels of service and access. Second: it is crucial to have a physician who is board certified following residency training in occupational medicine lead the medical program.

Residency training hones the basic skills for successful practice, and more importantly, develops an ethical commitment and vision for the future. However, on a recent national survey, only 23 percent of programs employed a board certified occupational medicine specialist.

The ongoing process of quality also depends on a self-appraisal and self-evaluation. A strong occupational medicine program has methods in place to examine effectiveness of care and evaluate cost control practices. The employer should ask the provider to describe the processes used to monitor quality issues. The issues being monitored should have practical, logical and relevant application to the employer's needs.

Consultants in risk management and health delivery strategies believe one way of validating diagnostic accuracy and appropriateness of treatment is to use an independent medical examination completed by a physician other than the treating doctor. …

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