THE “STRAIGHT LEG” TEST: INJURED WORKERS BEING EXAMINED FOR WORK INJURIES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Injured Workers are both evaluated and treated within the Workers’ Compensation System for their work-related complaints.  Workers suffering from back injuries will be physically examined in order to determine a proper diagnosis.

Lumbar Spine Physical Examinations require that the physician or examiner perform a variety of physical tests.  One of these tests is the “straight leg.”

This article will discuss the “straight leg” test, what it means for a back condition, and what it means for Industrially Injured Workers.

Who Conducts Lumbar Spine Physical Examinations?

Physical Examinations are done by medical professionals in the capacity of Treaters,  Qualified Medical Evaluators, and Agreed Medical Evaluators.

Specialties conducting physical examinations for the spine may include Chiropractors, Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Nurse Practitioners, Occupational Medicine Doctors, Orthopedic Surgeons, Physical Medicine Doctors, Physician Assistants, Osteopaths, Primary Care Physicians, and Sports Medicine Doctors.

What is the Common Back Complaint Relevant to the “Straight Leg” Test?

The common back complaint, relevant to the straight leg test, is back pain which radiates down one or both lower extremities.  The symptoms can include numbness in the lower extremities.

Are There Other Names for the” Straight Leg” Test?

Yes. The straight leg test has different names.   This includes the names “Lasegue Test” and the “Straight Leg Raise Test.”

How is the Straight Leg Test Performed?

“The straight leg raise test is performed with the patient in a supine position. The examiner gently raises the patient’s leg by flexing the hip with the knee in extension, and the test is considered positive when the patient experiences pain along the lower limb in the same distribution of the lower radicular nerve roots (usually L5 or S1).” Camino Willhuber GO, Piuzzi NS. Straight Leg Raise Test. [Updated 2021 Feb 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539717/

In sum, when an Injured Worker is sitting, the examiner will take the worker’s leg and raise it upward.

What Makes a Positive Straight Leg Test?

“[A] positive straight leg raise test is determined when pain is elicited by lower limb flexion at an angle lower than 45 degrees. During the test, if the pain is reproduced during the leg straightening, patients usually request that the examiner aborts the maneuver and by flexing the patient’s knee, the buttock pain is usually relieved(Figure 1).”  Camino Willhuber GO, Piuzzi NS. Straight Leg Raise Test. [Updated 2021 Feb 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539717/

Based upon a review of many medical reports, I have seen Injured Workers have positive straight leg findings with one examiner and not with others.  Thus, in my opinion there is some variability concerning results.

What Is the Aim of the Straight Leg Test?

The straight leg test may indicate whether there is a “sciatic compromise due to lumbosacral nerve root irritation.” Camino Willhuber GO, Piuzzi NS. Straight Leg Raise Test. [Updated 2021 Feb 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539717/

It should be noted, however, that “there are multiple causes of a positive test such as facet joint cyst or hypertrophy.” Camino Willhuber GO, Piuzzi NS. Straight Leg Raise Test. [Updated 2021 Feb 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539717/

If the Test is Positive, What Will Happen?

If a test is positive, there is the possibility of nerve root irritation and possible entrapment.  The positive straight leg test is simply the beginning of the process of making a comprehensive diagnosis.  Thus, the Injured Worker may be requested to participate in additional testing which can include MRI testing, CT scans, X-Rays, and Nerve Conduction Studies.

In sum, a positive finding suggests the need for additional testing to rule out a herniated disc.

What Does a Positive Straight Leg Test Mean for Injured Workers?

For Injured Workers, a positive straight leg test will trigger the examiner to consider ruling out the possibility of a herniated disc injury in the lumbar spine. Thus, a thorough assessment will require additional testing to occur via imaging studies and nerve testing. A positive test may trigger a referral to an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

THE LOWER EXTREMITY FUNCTIONAL SCALE (LEFS) AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

In Workers’ Compensation, Doctors and Medical Evaluators, in order to address matters of disability and impairment, frequently use testing. Testing can be in the form of self-reporting questionnaires filled out by Injured Workers.

Many Injured Workers have injuries to their lower extremities.  Lower extremity injuries can include the hips, knees, ankles and feet.

This article will describe the Lower Extremity Functional Scale (LEFS), what the questions are asked, how it is scored, and what it means to an Injured Worker.

What is the Lower Extremity Functional Scale?

“The Lower Extremity Functional Scale (LEFS) is a questionnaire containing 20 questions about a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.” Honorhealth.com

What is the Purpose of the LEFS?

“The LEFS can be used by clinicians as a measure of patients’ initial function, ongoing progress and outcome, as well as to set functional goals. The LEFS can be used to evaluate the functional impairment of a patient with a disorder of one or both lower extremities. It can be used to monitor the patient over time and to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention.” Honorhealth.com

How Are You to Answer the Questions?

When provided the LEFS, there is language on the form. It provides as follows: “We are interested in knowing whether you are having any difficulty at all with the activities listed below because of your lower limb problem for which you are currently seeking attention. Please provide an answer for each activity.”  Honorhealth.com

“Today, do you or would you have any difficulty at all with:”

What Are the Activities That Are to Be Assessed?

There are twenty activities that are to be addressed within the LEFS:

Usual work, housework or school activities

Usual hobbies, recreational or sporting activities.

Walking between rooms

Getting into or out of the bath

Walking between rooms

Putting on shoes or socks

Squatting

Lifting an object, like a bag of groceries from the floor

Performing light activities around a home

Performing heavy activities around a home

Getting into or out of a car

Walking 2 blocks

Walking a mile.

Going up or down 10 stairs (about 1 flight of stairs)

Standing for 1 hour

Sitting for 1 hour

Running on even ground

Running on uneven ground

Making sharp turns while running fast

Hopping

Rolling over in bed

How Are the Questions Answered?

The questions are answered with respect to a level of difficulty.  The levels of difficulty are as follows: extreme difficulty or inability to perform activity, quite a bit of difficulty, moderate difficulty, a little bit of difficulty, and no difficulty.

How Is It Scored?

Each level of difficulty is assigned a number from 0 to 4.  The range being from “O” for being extreme difficulty or inability to perform to “4” being able to perform with no difficulty.

Extreme Difficulty or Unable to Perform Activity (0)

Quite a Bit of Difficulty (1)

Moderate Difficulty (2)

A Little Bit of Difficulty (3)

No difficulty (4)

What Is the Total Score?

The total score can range from 0 to 80.  The lower the score implies the greater the disability.

How Can This Scale Be Used in Workers’ Compensation?

In California, the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 5th Edition, employs the use of “activities of daily living” (ADL) to address impairment.   “Activities of daily living” include the following items

Per the AMA Guides 5th Edition, Table 1-2, See Page 599, the following are the definitions of each ADL. These ADLs include standing, sitting, walking, climbing stairs, lifting, dressing oneself and bathing.

Thus, the LEFS may assist doctors and examiners as to the nature and extent of the injury’s impact on the ADLs.   The ADL assessment can impact the assignment of the permanent impairment number.

Are There Any Concerns with Respect to LEFS?

The LEFS presents problems with respect to workers’ compensation.

First, the scale is to be filled out with respect to the individual’s perception as of the day of the evaluation.  Thus, if someone’s condition gets worse during the day from prolonged weight bearing, their answer in the morning may be different from that in the afternoon. Likewise, there is the issue of the Injured Worker having good days versus bad days. Further, there is the issue of whether the assessment is made with respect to one being medicated or not.  For example, an Injured Worker may be able to perform well on activities while on narcotics but have problems without.

Second, the scale may be used for credibility issues.  Since the scale documents activities on a particular day, contemporaneous sub rosa film may show the Injured Worker performing activities either consistent or inconsistent with their answers.

Third, the scale asks a “would” question concerning the activities.  To some extent, the Injured Worker is being asked to speculate as to their ability to perform certain functions.  In workers’ compensation, speculation cannot be used as a basis for an award and is therefore problematic.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

What You Need To Know About The Cage-aid Questionnaire And Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ Compensation Medical Treatment can employ various questionnaires to assess an Injured Workers’ need for treatment.  One of these questionnaires is called CAGE-AID.

This article will discuss the purpose of the CAGE-AID questionnaire, how it is used in an industrial treatment setting, and how it may impact an injured worker’s treatment.

What is the CAGE-AID Questionnaire? 

The CAGE-Aid questionnaire is a substance abuse screening tool.  Substance abuse applies to alcohol, legal drugs and street drugs.

Why is Substance Abuse a Problem with Workers’ Compensation Treatment?

Substance abuse is a multi-factorial problem in workers’ compensation.  There are workers who, prior to their injury, have histories of either substance or alcohol abuse.  Further, there are workers, as a result of their injuries, begin to abuse drugs or alcohol.   This abuse can either be with prescription drugs, alcohol, or street drugs.  Finally, there are injured workers who, not as a result of their work injuries, engage in substance abuse.

Why is The Questionnaire  Called CAGE?

The abbreviation refers to some of the terms within the questions. The terms are cut, annoyed, guilty and eye opener.

What are the Questions Asked?

There are four questions.  They are:

Have you ever felt that you ought to cut down on your drinking or drug use?

Have people annoyed your by criticizing your drinking or drug use?

Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking or drug use?

Have you ever had a drink or used drugs first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye opener)?

How is it Scored?  

It is scored one for yes and zero for no.

How is The Score Interpreted? 

If one or more responses is yes, then it is regarded as a positive screening test.  Thus, possible substance abuse is something that the medical provider should explore with the partient.

How Should Injured Workers Answer the Questions?

These questions may impact medical treatment decisions.  Medical providers need accurate information in order to provide appropriate treatment.  Substance abuse, when combined with prescription drugs, can lead to harmful and deadly drug interactions.   Therefore, it is important to be honest when answering the questions.

Additionally, if an injured worker has a substance abuse problem that is preventing their recovery from a work injury, it is possible that the workers’ compensation medical system may provide some assistance with respect to substance abuse treatment.  This, however,  would be subject to the limitations within Labor Code Section 4600.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

VISUAL ANALOG PAIN SCALE (VAPS) AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

In the Workers’ Compensation System, Doctors and Medical Evaluators ask Injured Workers to fill out various scales and questionnaires. One of these scales is the Visual Analog Pain Scale (VAPS.)

Scales and questionnaires can impact an Injured Worker’s ability to get treatment and disability payments. Therefore, Injured Worker should understand how to answer them properly.

This article will discuss the Visual Analog Pain Scale(VAPS), how the VAPS is administered, how VAPS is to be answered, how VAPS is graded, and how VAPS can be used within the workers’ compensation setting.

What is VAPS? What Is it Designed to Measure?

The Visual Analog Pain Scale is “a unidimensional measure of pain intensity, which is utilized in diverse adult populations.”  Measure of adult pain: Visual Analog Scale for Pain (VAS Pain), Numeric Rating Scale for Pain (NRS Pain), McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ), Chronic Pain Grade Scale (CPGS), Short Form-36 Bodily Pain Scale (SF-36 BPS), and Measure of Intermittent and Constant Osteoarthritis Pain (ICOAP) Gillian A. Hawker, Samra Mian, Tetyana Kendzerska Melissa French 07 November 2011 https: //doi.org/10.1002/acr.20543

The VAPS is intended to explore the issue of pain.

What Does VAPS Look Like?

The VAP Scale can be set up either horizontally or vertically. Supra.

This is an example of a scale:    0 “no pain”   |————————————————–| 100 “worst imaginable pain.”

How Many Questions Are There in VAPS?

One. It is the simple answering of one’s pain level.  This is done by marking a spot on the spectrum to describe the pain. Supra.  The spot can be measured and assigned a number.  See below.  Some scales allow for the patient to assign a number.

How is the Score Interpreted?

“A higher score indicates greater pain intensity. Based on the distribution of pain VAS scores in post surgical patients (knee replacement, hysterectomy, or laparoscopic myomectomy) who described there postoperative pain intensity as none, mild, moderate, or severe, the following cut points on the pain VAS have been recommended: no pain (0-4mm), mild pain (5-44mm), moderate pain (45-74 mm) , and severe pain (75-100 mm) ” Supra.

Why Are These Terms important?

In workers’ compensation, the evaluators look at pain. Pain is often characterized by the terms of slight, moderate or severe.

The definitions for slight, moderate and severe are different in the field of industrial medicine. California used to use them to assign permanent disability.  In order to do so, they defined the terms.  The 1997 Permanent Disability Rating Schedule defined the terms as follows: “Pain is not always disabling. It becomes disabling when its degree affects function. Regulations define four degrees of subjective pain – minimal, slight, moderate and severe. By definition, minimal (mild) pain is not disabling because it causes no handicap in the activity precipitating the pain. However, slight, moderate and severe pain reflect increasingly greater degrees of handicap on work activity, and are ratable factors of disability.” P.1-7.  While these terms are no longer used for permanent disability purposes, they are frequently documented in medical reports.

Pain’s nature and extent, in certain circumstances, can be a factor in assessing whole person impairment. Whole person impairment is then translated into permanent disability.

How Can Testing Impact Injured Workers’ Claims?

Testing creates credibility issues.  When an Injured Worker provides a 100 score, it means either that they are in severe pain, they are exaggerating, or that they are making a cry for help.  In cases with minor injuries, high scores will impact the credibility of the pain reporting.

Also, an injured Worker may wish to ask how the question should be answered. Pain level when medicated or pain level during a certain period of time, i.e. this moment or this week, are legitimate questions.

What Is the Problem with this VAP Scale?

Pain assessments can be confounded with respect to an individual’s “pain reference.”

Some individuals have never experienced severe pain in their life.  For women who have experienced childbirth and for those who have passed a kidney stone, their pain references, however, can be in the severe range.  Thus, an individual’s past medical conditions is important to review as a reference.

It is quite conceivable that they have experienced pain in the 90s up to 100.   Some individuals also have strong pain tolerances.  A 70 to them would be a 95 to others Thus, these individual’s reporting may only be relevant when compared to other  assigned scores provided on different dates of evaluation or treatment.

How Should an Injured Worker Answer the VAPS?

An Injured Worker should make their best effort to accurately describe their pain.

If there is any confusion concerning how to answer or mark the scale, you should clarify with the evaluator. For instance, you could be a 50 on medications and a 70 without.  Thus, it is important that the doctor or evaluator understand your reason for assigning a particular level of pain.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

INJURED WORKERS WAKE UP! CARRIERS AND EMPLOYERS HAVE OTHER GOALS THAN YOU: RISK MANAGEMENT AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Injured Workers need to know that the workers’ compensation system is a risk management system. Therefore, it is important to understand the nature of a risk management system.  Insurance Companies and Employers may take actions on your claim and your employment.  Therefore, understanding risk management may allow you take measures to protect yourself.

Risk Managers compile information and techniques which allow them to limit costs with respect to workers’ compensation claims.

Injured Workers and Workers should have a general understanding risk management within a work injury context. Risk Managers’ approaches in workers’ compensation claims may unfortunately impact an Injured Worker’s treatment or benefits.

This article will discuss the various factors that Risk Managers consider as important and what areas that they will address as cost-savings measures.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?  How Is It Related To Risk Management?

Workers’ Compensation was created to be insurance program that manages work injury losses or costs for employers.  The system is designed with the context that businesses and employers can be able to cover the employee injury risk and no go broke.  In other words, a work injury claim should be something that can be affordable and not bankrupt a business.

Work Injury losses and costs include indemnity payments, transactional costs such as adjusting and legal costs, and medical treatment costs.  Further, employers and insurers are also concerned with respect to reserves. Reserves are monies that are set aside to pay the expected costs on a claim.

What Is Risk Management?

Risk Management is a field which addresses aspects of insurance and loss.   Thus, with respect to industrial injuries, Risk Managers focus on both injury reduction and injury prevention.

Part of the injury reduction component includes limiting the nature and extent of injuries as well as the attending costs for the claim. This can include reducing indemnity payments as well as medical treatment.

Part of Risk Management is the ability to predict outcomes.   Therefore, knowledge of past claims and past results lays the foundation as to how to approach future claims.

What Are the Methods of Risk Management?

Risk Management methods include safety training, control banding, protective equipment safety guards, safety mechanisms on machinery, and safety barriers. Also, analyzing causes by using root cause analysis may help reduce future injury. Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238.

Some aspect of risk management can include workplace inspection.

What Is Risk Management’s View of the Sources of Occupational Injuries?

Risk Managers need to know what can cause injuries in the workplace.  Occupational injuries can result from physical, biological, chemical, or psychosocial hazards. Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238.

Thus, Risk Managers may have a goal of controlling these hazards.  In doing so, this can lead to loss prevention with respect to work injury claims.

Thus, Risk Managers may implement workplace training, rules, and regulations.

What Is Risk Management’s View as to the Types of Work Exposures That Can Cause Injury?  

Risk Managers see a variety of exposures that workers encounter in the workplace that are causative towards injuries.  Unlike sources of injury, exposures are ones that are in fact injurious in nature.  These include “noise, temperature, insect or animal bites, aerosols, blood-borne pathogens, hazardous chemicals, radiation, and occupational burnout.” Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238.

Thus, Risk Managers may control the amount of worker’s exposure to these items or events to prevent work injury claims.

What is Risk Management’s View as to Common Sources of Injury?

“Many injuries still occur due to poor ergonomics, manual handling of heavy loads, misuse of equipment, general hazards, and inadequate safety training.” Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238.

Thus, Risk Managers, to prevent injury, may implement of ergonomic work stations, training and rules for properly lifting and safety training.

What is Risk Management’s View as to the Common Types of Injuries?

“Slipping or tripping, which causes a fall are common work-related injuries, accounting for 20% to 40% of disabling occupational injuries.”  Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238.

Further, it should be noted that orthopedic injuries tend to be the most common medical specialty that is employed to treat industrial injuries.

What is Risk Management’s View as to the Parts of the Body Get Injured?

The most common injury is to the Upper Extremities.  They represent 50 percent of workplace injuries.   Hearing Loss also accounts for a significant amount of occupational injury claims.  Further, needle sticks are also a source of injuries as well. Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238.

Thus, Risk Managers may impose rest breaks, ergonomics, hearing testing, hearing protections, and proper disposal of needles to prevent work injuries.

What Is Risk Managements’ View of Age?

A Worker’s age can statistically have value to Risk Managers.

Statically, “[a]ge is perhaps the most common personal factor that predisposes a person to an increased risk of work-related injury. Workers aged 65 years and older are more likely to suffer from occupational injuries compared to their younger occupational counterparts.” Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238.

Additionally, older workers can make them ”at higher risk for hearing loss, visual impairment, and the use of multiple prescription medications that are linked to higher rates of work-related injuries.”

In sum, Risk Management, although there are laws against age discrimination, may be focused on the tasks that older workers perform.

Does Risk Management Have a Concern with Respect to Occupations?

Yes.  Certain occupations for which there are higher rates of work injuries.  In particular, the occupations with high rates of include farming, fishing, forestry, construction and manufacturing.  Supra.

What is Risk Management’s View with Respect to Testing Proving or Disproving Claims?

Risk Managers rely on traditional work-ups by medical providers to assess work injury claims.

The work-ups include the taking of a comprehensive history and a physical examination. Also,  a diagnostic workup should be considered. This diagnostic work-up can include, but is not limited to, radiographs, ultrasound, and advanced imaging modalities.

Risk Managers, however, have concerns with respect to MRIs.  It is noted that “while the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often helpful in delineating the actual clinical pathology, providers should remain cognizant of the potential for overdiagnosis and the potential for treating a potentially incidental finding that is not the primary source of a patient’s current debilitating condition.” [emphasis added]

Note: This passage shows notes that allowing for medical testing can open a Pandora’s Box of liability.  An incidental finding on a MRI can lead to a claim being amended for additional body parts.

Further, it is noted that “MRI has been demonstrated previously in the literature to its known limitations in the appropriate clinical setting. For example, a 2010 study reported on the inconsistent diagnostic accuracy of wrist MRIs being obtained to identify the potential source(s) of ulnar-sided wrist pain.” Supra.

Further, “a 2017 study analyzing work-related injuries consistent with unilateral knee or shoulder injury and subsequent bilateral MRI studies being performed during the diagnostic evaluation reported that less than half of patients had degenerative and/or pathologic findings that would be considered worse than the contralateral, asymptomatic, “normal” side.”

Note: This research is Risk Management propaganda concerning MRIs.  The issue is treating symptomatic disabling body parts.  The fact that an asymptomatic body part with pathology is present should not create excuse.

What Is Risk Management’s View on Treatment?

Risk Managers view treatment with a two-fold perspective.  In the treatment setting, there is the opportunity to treat the injury. Also, there is the opportunity to analyze the work-relatedness of the claim. This can include an assessment as to the value of the claim.

“Each work-related injury is different. Thus, providers should first establish whether the injury is preexisting, directly or indirectly related to the patient’s occupational requirements and if the claim is considered to fall under the workers’ compensation system.” Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238.

Risk Managers note that “[t]reatment is specific to the specific condition and may include pain management modalities, physical therapy, NSAIDs, injections, and surgery.  It is important to recognize that each patient presenting with occupational-related injuries should be managed on an individual basis as not all conditions are created equal.”   This is position is true.   This position is not however adhered to during the course of workers’ compensation treatment.

Risk Managers limit claims exposure by asking providers to limit their evaluations and treatment.  This can be done by limiting authorization to treat certain body parts or what treatment will be authorized.

What Is Risk Management’s View on Surgery?

Surgeries are not necessarily viewed as beneficial from a Risk Management perspective.

“The literature supports many different types of clinical encounters the potential disparity with respect to postoperative outcomes comparing work-related injury patients compared to their non-work counterparts.”

“For example, total joint replacements are, in general, consistently reproducible procedures that yield excellent outcomes in the vast majority of patients. However, when comparing occupational-based (or workers’ compensation) patients to non-workers’ compensation control patients via matched cohort or comparative studies, the literature demonstrates the potential for a comparably inferior outcome in the former.” Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238.

Thus, Risk Managers may have some fear and trepidation as to authorizing surgeries due to the fact that there is the anticipation that the results may not be optimum.  As a result, Risk Managers may scrutinize and resist requests for surgery.

What Is the Risk Management’s View of Case Settlement?

Risk Managers have a concern with respect to the future medical costs. This is especially the cases with respect to older workers. It is noted that “the synergistic combination of the older population falling at work, in addition to the older population’s predisposition to these low-energy injuries, sets up the potential for an overall devastatingly morbid effect on the entire healthcare system.” Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238. The Risk Management perspective to include nurse practitioners as part of the diagnosis progress.

This perspective indicates that there may be an increased sense of urgency to settle older workers’ case.   This is due to the fact of the possible high medical exposure costs.   Further, Risk Managers may desire to avoid placing older workers in work setting in which they may be subject to trip and fall injuries.

What Is Risk Management’s View on Obtaining a Medical Diagnosis?

“All healthcare providers are encouraged to manage these patients individually in order to ensure the best possible outcomes.”  Varacallo M, Knoblauch DK. Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Management Strategies. 2020 Aug 24. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 29262238. Nurse practitioners were included as part of the providers who could make the medical diagnosis. Supra.

As a representative of Injured Workers, it is my contention that diagnosis and treatment of Injured Worker should be the purview of medical doctors.  They should be the one making the diagnosis and not nurse practitioners.   The reliance on nurse practitioners is solely a cost savings measure, Improper or inadequate diagnosis by a nurse practitioner can lead to delay in a achieving a proper medical diagnosis.  This improper or inadequate diagnosis can lead to delays in both proper treatment and return to work. Therefore, while reliance on lower level practitioners for diagnosis of a condition may be perceived as cost-cutting, it may not actually be more costly in the long run.

What Is Risk Management’s View Concerning “Return-to-Work?”

Yes. Risk Managers recognize that there are “return to work” issues for Injured Workers. I attended a lecture on this issue.  The speaker noted that every day that an Injured Worker missed as a result of their injury impacted on the probability that the worker would return to their usual and customary job.

Thus, Risk Managers acknowledge that an Injured Worker returning to work can have a profound impact on both their workers’ compensation case and the Injured Worker’s employment.

Thus, there may be some instances where Insurance Companies and Employers may encourage early return to the workplace.  This can be done via offers of alternative or modified work.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

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