If you were given the blueprint needed to build an ideal workers
compensation system in Oklahoma, would you attempt to build it? If
not, do you feel that the status quo is acceptable? Do you feel that
the current system needs no improvement?
Most employers and employees alike would agree that change is
needed. But just what change and how do we make the changes happen
is a perplexing question.
This article offers a few simple solutions to what are often
difficult problems for both employers and employees alike when it
comes to work related injury claims. These are opinions from a
doctor who deals with these problems on a regular basis in his day-
to-day practice of occupational medicine. You may either agree or
disagree with them, but that is not the issue. What is important is
that it stimulates us to think logically about the day-to-day
problems we face and come up with workable and reasonable solutions.
I believe that this is quite possible.
If you are an employer, human resource director or safety
manager, do you long for less recordable injuries, less lost time,
less unnecessary litigation, less headaches and hassles, less wasted
money, and more quality cost-effective medical treatment for your
valued employees? Do you wish that the doctor would listen to your
concerns and include you in the plan to get your employee better and
back to gainful employment? If you happen to be the employee and are
unfortunate enough to experience a work-related injury, don't you
desire a supportive employer, skilled caring doctors who listen to
you and effective medical treatment? Don't you want to be treated
like you are a valued employee? Of course you do! How is this
accomplished you ask -- I will attempt to present ideas I hope are
The first principle is communication. Unfortunately, the latest
trend in occupational health has been for doctors to see huge
volumes of patients, spending little time with each individual.
This, of course, results in patient dissatisfaction, poor treatment
outcomes and additional cost for employers. An unhappy patient often
resorts to litigation or doctor shopping to have needs met.
In medical school and residency, physicians have always been
taught that a patient's history is 90 percent of the examination.
Basically, most of the information needed to formulate a medical
opinion and render treatment comes to light in taking a thorough
history. This means listening to the patient.
In today's managed care environment, however, time is money and
time is in very short supply. With reduced reimbursements and
further proposed reductions in our Oklahoma fee schedule, this may
serve to further compound the problem. Reduced reimbursement
effectively reduces the physician pool willing and able to take on
these difficult cases due to financial constraints. Treating
patients with special needs takes quite a bit of time and patience.
What medical institutions and physicians need to realize, however,
is that better outcomes will definitely come about if we take the
required time. We need to listen to the patient's history and
concerns and take the time to explain treatment regimens, diagnosis
and the meaning of any assigned restricted duties.
It is important to show a sincere interest in the patient's
welfare, and let them know that you want to help them get better and
get back to gainful employment. Another important duty is to keep
the employer's representative informed of the employee's progress.
The doctor should seek to help solve issues and problems that are
common when treating employees who have been injured on the job.
Misunderstandings that frequently occur between employees and
employers often can be defused by an observant involved doctor.
Although medical skills are essential to patient outcomes,
successfully balancing the medical needs of the injured employee
with the needs of the employer is the true art of occupational