THE CAGE-AID QUESTIONNAIRE AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

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.

 

THE QUEBEC BACK PAIN DISABILITY SCALE AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

For both workers’ compensation treatment and evaluation, Injured Workers are frequently asked to fill out surveys concerning their medical conditions. The Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale (QBPDS) is one of those surveys.

This article will discuss how and why such scales are used within the workers’ compensation system, what is the Quebec Back Pain disability Scale, what questions are asked within the scale, how the scale is scored? and what it can mean to a workers’ compensation claim.

What is the QBPDS?

This questionnaire is one that addresses back pain.  It inquires as to the daily activities that impacted by Back Pain.

Why are Surveys and Scales Used?

Surveys and Scales which ask the Injured Worker to self-report on their conditions are helpful to both treating doctors and evaluators.  First, they are a cheap quick method of getting some insight into the Injured Worker’s complaints.  Second, they can give the doctor or evaluator a sense of how serious the worker perceives their injury.  Third, they can give some insight as to whether someone is exaggerating with respect to the complaints. Fourth, if the same scale is administered over time, it can reveal some insight as to the course of the injured Worker’s condition.  Repeated testing may show whether the Injured Worker sees their pain improving, staying the same, or getting worse.

What are the QBPDS Questions Asked?

There are twenty questions asked within the inventory. The questions are about getting out of bed, sleeping through the night, turning over in bed, riding in a car, standing up for 20-30 minutes, sitting in a chair for several hours, climbing one slight of stairs, walking a few blocks, walking several kilometers, reaching up to high shelves, throwing a ball, running one block, taking food out of the refrigerator, making your bed, putting socks or pantyhose on, bending over to clean the bathtub, moving a chair, pulling or pushing heavy doors, carrying two bags or groceries, and lifting and carrying a heavy suit case.

Note: The questions are interesting in that they include activities that an individual may rarely or never participate in.  For example, there are some people who do not throw balls or handle suit cases.

How Are the Responses Scored?

There are five responses that can be made. They are not difficult at all, minimally difficult, somewhat difficult, fairly difficult, very difficult, and unable to do.  They are scored from 0-5.

Note: The responses address ability to perform activities as opposed to the individual’s pain experience.

What Do the Scores Mean?

A higher score represents a greater level of perceived functional disability.  A lower score represents a lower level of perceived functional disability.

Is The QBPDS Helpful for Treating Evaluators and Physicians With Respect to Permanent Disability Assignment?

In California Workers’ Compensation Law, Activities of Daily Living are a basis for making impairment assessments.  Impairment assessments render a Whole Person Impairment which then translates into a Permanent Disability Percentage. The QBPDS can be helpful to an evaluator on their assessment.  The Activities of Daily Living based upon the AMA Guides 5th Edition are Self-care: urinating, defecating, brushing teeth, personal hygiene combing hair, bathing, dressing oneself, and eating,  Communication:  writing, typing, seeing, hearing, and speaking, Physical activity:  standing, sitting, reclining, walking, and climbing stairs, Sensory Function: hearing, seeing, tactile feeling, tasting, smelling, Nonspecialized Hand Activities: grasping, lifting, tactile discrimination,  Travel: riding, driving, flying, Sexual Function: orgasm, ejaculation, lubrication, erection, and Sleep: restful and nocturnal sleep pattern.

The QBPDS does not explore self-care and sexual function. Therefore, it is not fully comprehensive to render an ADL assessment.

As an Injured Worker, What Should I Do When I Fill Out These Scales?

When fill out these scales, try to be accurate as possible. Sometimes, I personally roll my eyes when I see scales in which every answer is the highest.

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.

 

 

 

 

UPPER EXTREMITY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SURGERIES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Studies about workers’ compensation as always of interest to Injured Workers.   A lot of these studies tell us how and why insurance companies, employers and doctors act in particular ways.   A study addressing upper extremity surgeries provides us such insight. The study compared the results of industrial versus non-industrial upper extremity surgeries.

This article will discuss, upper extremity surgeries, issues relating to upper extremity surgeries, and the results of the study.

What Are Upper Extremity Surgeries?

 With respect to upper extremities, there are a variety of surgeries that are done on an industrial basis.  Upper extremity surgeries can range from shoulders to finger tips. Parts operated on can include areas such as the shoulders, biceps, elbows, forearms, wrists, and fingers.

For shoulders and elbows, there operations can include fracture surgeries, total shoulder replacements, shoulder arthroscopies, rotator cuff repairs, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and elbow arthroscopy.

For the wrist, operations can include fracture surgeries, carpal tunnel releases, wrist arthroscopies, wrist joint replacements and wrist fusions.

How Are Workers’ Compensation Upper Extremity Surgeries Different Than Non-Industrial Upper Extremity Surgeries?

Approval:  Unlike Health Insurance Company approval for surgeries, Workers’ Compensation surgeries are subject to utilization review and independent medical review. Thus, there are guidelines and algorithms that must be met in order for surgeries to get authorized.  This can lead to delays in getting approval.

Medical Providers:  For many Injured Workers, they are constrained to using hand surgeons and upper extremity surgeons within the workers’ compensation insurance medical provider networks. Thus, the quality of the surgeon is subject to the insurance company’s dedication to having good providers.

Total Temporary Disability Benefits: For Injured Workers, they receive benefits is they remain symptomatic. Therefore, it is necessary that the voice all of their problems.

Permanent Disability Benefits: For Injured Workers, they need to be critical of the results of the surgery and be able to describe them.  Therefore, the result is viewed with this mindset.

What Was the Study’s Conclusion?

 The study “found that patients receiving WC[workers’ compensation] had worse postsurgical results after upper extremity surgery and demonstrated less pre- vs postoperative improvement than uncompensated patients regardless of which outcomes were measured. However, this effect was not uniform among different types of outcomes. Functional measures, such as AOM or grip strength, were least likely to demonstrate a significant difference between compensated and uncompensated patients. The same was true in studies that measured pre- vs postoperative improvement rather than only assess patient postoperatively.” Fujihara Y, Shauver MJ, Lark ME, Zhong L, Chung KC. The Effect of Workers’ Compensation on Outcome Measurement Methods after Upper Extremity Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017;139(4):923-933. doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000003154. It was noted that this analysis was aware that compensated patients can result in artificial reduction of the therapeutic effect which may lead to incorrect conclusions. Supra.

The study noted that “.. the effect of WC on surgical outcome is not solely an issue of malingering Americans. Compensation systems that do not incentivise feigning impairment, also observe worse outcomes associated with WC. Rather, this may indicate that increased impairment among workers receiving WC may be a result of psychological effects on patients caused by a sense of victimization or injustice .” Fujihara Y, Shauver MJ, Lark ME, Zhong L, Chung KC. The Effect of Workers’ Compensation on Outcome Measurement Methods after Upper Extremity Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017;139(4):923-933. doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000003154

In sum, it would appear that Injured Workers have poorer post-operative results.   There are factors of income, malingering, psychological effects of victimhood and injustice may be the factors lead to a poorer workers’ compensation result.

Knowing these Results, How Will an Injured Worker Be Treated?

 Insurance Companies, knowing the surgery result may be poor, may want to avoid providing for it.  This can be done in two ways: one, settling the case before surgery, two, contesting the need for the surgery.

Doctors take pride in their work.  Doctors like to have good results.  Therefore, doctors may not thrilled with Injured Workers because there will be some level of dissatisfaction and representations that the surgical result was not optimal.

Employers, like Insurance Companies, may not be happy with surgeries with poor results.  For them, they are faced with a costlier claim as well as possible issues with respect to return to work.   Return to work issues would involve either qualified Injured worker status or the need to provide 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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