There are numerous specialties in rehabilitation. If you've experienced a shoulder injury from a remodeling project at home, a physical therapist who understands shoulder rehabilitation will likely provide competent rehabilitative care. However, if that injury occurred on a football field, a better candidate to provide treatment is a specialist in sports injuries who understands returning to general conditioning, participating in full contact scrimmages, and making it back into game situations.
Similarly, the worker who experiences a shoulder injury while on the job has occupational issues pertaining to that injury that extend far beyond the common scope of the general rehab practitioner. Modified duty, workers' compensation laws, and possible secondary gain issues are only a few of the factors considered in an injured worker's rehabilitation program. A clinician with this knowledge is imperative to achieving the best outcome. Otherwise clinically gifted providers possessing only a limited understanding of work-related injury issues cost companies thousands of dollars annually.
Employers and insurance professionals should ask some basic questions to determine if their therapist and rehab facility know how to handle a work-related injury.
- Is the clinician's specialty treating work-related injuries? Are the vast majority of the therapist's patients injured workers? Practically speaking, if the therapist doesn't treat at least 85 to 90 percent injured workers, she doesn't specialize in treating injured workers.
- Is it routine for the clinician to visit workplaces? The clinician doesn't necessarily need to visit your workplace to provide good care for the injured worker. However, if he's never performed a job site analysis or job site visit related to treatment, it's unlikely he understands a worker's needs for returning to productive work.
- Do the clinician and clinic have a good clinical reputation? What were the outcomes? Did the injured worker return to full duty in a timely manner? How was communication timeliness and thoroughness? What did the worker think about the clinician? Did the injured worker believe he was getting excellent care? Did the injured worker develop a rapport with the clinician?
- Does the clinic provide a proactive and aggressive plan of recovery for the return to work process? Does the clinic offer realistic, timely goals for treatment and then stick to them? Does the clinic bill for passive modalities-ice and heat packs, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation-or does it charge only for the active portions of treatment? Do workers say they work hard while in therapy?
- Is the clinic supportive of case managers, adjustors, and employers? If you call the facility, do you get a warm reception or are you made to feel like you're a nuisance? Are case managers welcome to visit with their clients in the facility and talk to the specialists?
Therapists aren't always recognized for their specialization in work-related injuries. As a result, workers miss more days of work, while employers and insurance carriers experience the higher costs associated with these cases. However, a therapist who specializes in this area quickly becomes an asset to all involved. IBI