Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Workers Comp Improvement Strategies

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Workers Comp Improvement Strategies

Article excerpt

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 helpful.

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 medicine.

As we have seen from the recent election debacle, there is really a great need to work together. …

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