Elements of a Strong Occupational Medicine Program
On this edition of Just Checking In, industry expert Alan Ayers discusses the four elements of a strong occupational medicine program delivered through an urgent care center, OSHA, worker’s comp and much more!
Good Afternoon! This is Alan Ayers and I am Just Checking In from Boston Common where I just finished attending the National Association of Occupational Health Professionals Conference. Tonight I’m going to be talking to you about four elements of an exceptionally strong occupational medicine program delivered through an urgent care center.
The first is having a provider understanding of OSHA recordables. So, OSHA recordables are incidents that qualify under OSHA that affect an employer’s risk rating, which directly affects their workers’ compensation premium. There are certain things that when a workplace injury occur that can trigger a recordable. For instance, treatment beyond first aid. Now, as a physician you probably say, “Now, I’m a Doctor. I don’t deliver first aid.” Well, treatment beyond first aid really entails understanding how OSHA defines first aid and recognizing first aid cases when they come through, as opposed to something that may be documented as an injury. And it goes to factor such as the type of medicine that’s prescribed, time off of work, and other things that are defined by OSHA.
Number two is controlling time off work. So if you look at the total cost of a workers’ compensation claim, the greatest cost tends to not be medical. It tends to be time off. Well it’s very easy in the urgent care setting for a patient to come in. “Oh, you hurt your back. Here’s two weeks. Here’s some pain meds. Go home and feel better.” Well, clearly that will ding an employer’s risk rating and the time away from work could put the employer in a bind, and also in many cases, can keep the employee from recovering fully as well. So employers tend to prefer a lighter, modified duty approach and a work hardening approach with an understanding that the faster you can get an employee back to their regular job responsibilities, the more quickly that employee will recover from the injury.
Also related to time away from work, just goes to the practicality of time in the center. If you have a center that runs extended wait times for physicals and drug screens, an employee’s gone two or three hours to receive those basic services, an employer might look and say, “That’s too much time away from the workplace.”, and they may choose another provider. So sensitivity to times away from work, both in terms of injury duration or claim duration, as well as service turnaround in your facility.
Also very important is documentation of causation. The workers’ comp provider tends to have a natural sense of skepticism. Did the injury – as described and based on the physical examination – is it feasible that this injury was caused in this employee’s regular job duties. That’s often why to strengthen client relationships, workers’ compensation providers frequently spend time at the worksite looking at employees’ job functions, looking at ergonomics, looking at factors that may cause an injury. And actually through those consultations there’s the opportunity to offer preventive services or to consult with employers on how to reduce injuries going forward.
And then the fourth element is frequent communication with employers. Activity status, as far as initial injury; so when an injury comes in, the providers should pick up the phone, speak with the employer, “This is the extent of the injury. This is the treatment plan. This is light and modified duty, or time off work.” And as the employee progresses through their treatment plan, giving frequent updates to the employer as to the employee’s status. And then certainly also communicating with the employer when any type of referral is made to physical therapy, or imaging, or any type of specialist, such as ortho.
And then last, as far as communication, is communicating medical outcomes. So after a case is closed, going back to the employer and saying, “This injury presented on this date. This was the duration of the claim. This is the number of days off work. This is the medical cost associated with this claim.” Communicating outcomes is really communicating the value that you’re delivering to employers. So as employers see that as an occ. med. provider you’re affectively managing their workers’ comp cases, controlling time away from work, and controlling medical costs, you’re selling the reasons for that employer to use you as their occ. med. provider going forward.
There are many more things you should be doing and could be doing as an urgent care provider offering occ. med. and at Practice Velocity and Urgent Care Consultants we specialize in helping urgent care providers grow and expand their business, including implementing and executing occupational health services. If you’d like to learn more about our services at PV, you can contact us using the information on your screen. Thanks for your attention and once again this is Alan Ayers, Just Checking In from Boston.