Consider this scenario: You are a manager at a plastics fabrication plant. One morning, an employee tells you that he injured his shoulder while lifting bags of resin. He states that he is in excruciating pain and can hardly move his arm. As the person in charge of safety, you instruct the employee to go to your company’s medical provider for assessment and treatment. When the employee leaves the facility, you call your medical provider to tell them you are sending an injured worker.
Question: What information should you provide the physician to help facilitate the most effective evaluation and treatment of the worker?
The most important time to investigate an injury is at the time the worker reports it. As time elapses, employers and employees overlook important details and circumstances. Gathering this information helps not only the medical provider, but your insurance carrier as well. The following information should be given to the medical provider at the time of the injury:
- What is the nature of the injury? In the above scenario, the worker complains of shoulder pain. Is it a traumatic injury (e.g., something struck the shoulder) or is it a strain-type of injury (e.g., did the injury occur because the worker was lifting or pulling a load)?
- What specific body part does the worker report as injured? This might seem a simple question, but there have been instances when a left shoulder injury “becomes” a right shoulder or even a leg injury en route to the facility.
- Has the worker injured the same part of the body in the past? The worker might have injured the same body part at work previously or talked to you about a similar personal injury.
- What are the physical demands in the worker’s area? In our scenario, is the worker required to lift resin bags? It is also important to tell the provider how much the bags weigh, the level of the required lifts, and frequency of the required lifts. In many instances, a written job description outlines the worker’s position. Faxing the description while the worker is en route will prove extremely helpful.
- Is modified or light duty available? For many companies, modified duty is available for injured workers. Telling the medical provider the basics of your modified duty program is imperative. In many cases, telling them that you have modified duty allows them to inquire about specific duties during the visit.
Remember, the medical provider serves a dual purpose in evaluating and treating your workers. First—and foremost—they are responsible to render the best care. Second, they are responsible to return the worker to your workplace as quickly and safely as possible. Providers often forget the second purpose. This results in increased treatment costs, higher litigation rates and unnecessary lost workdays. How can you tell? Offer the information above to them. If they show no interest or do not consider it (light duty, for example) as an integral part of treatment, it is likely that they have forgotten their second responsibility. iBi