ARE INJURED WORKERS SATISIFIED WITH THEIR INDUSTRIAL MEDICAL TREATMENT?  QUALITY WORK-RELATED MEDICAL CARE AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

“I Can’t Get No, Satisfaction”

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California Industrial Medical Treatment is controlled by the Labor Code. Thus, it differs from both traditional Private Medical Care as well as Government Programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Industrial medical care is part of a risk management system designed to provide cost-cutting elements with respect to providing the service.

Researches have looked into Injured Workers’ satisfaction with respect to their treatment.

This article will discuss Injured Worker’s satisfaction with their medical treatment.

What is Industrial Medical Care?

In California, Industrial Medical Treatment is guided by the Labor Code.   The Labor Code contains various treatment limitations.

Medical Control is one limitation. Insurance Company Managed Provider Networks limit the doctors that Injured Workers can choose.

Medical treatment is limited by utilization review of medical treatment requests.  These utilization reviews can deny treatment that does not follow the set algorithms and schedules.

What Is Private Medical Care?

Private Medical Care can come from a variety of sources. There is cash payment in where there is a direct provider patient relationship.  There are personal insurance policies for which the individual purchases the policy directly from the medical insurance company.  Finally, there is employer provided health insurance policies.

What is Medicare?

Per the SSA, “Medicare is [the U.S]… health insurance program for people age 65 or older. Certain people younger than age 65 can qualify for Medicare, too, including those with disabilities and those who have permanent kidney failure.

The program helps with the cost of health care, but it does not cover all medical expenses.”

What Is Medicaid?

Per Medicaid.gov, Medicaid programs [are] designed to provide health coverage for low-income people. This program is separate from Medicaid.

Can Injured Workers have Multiple Insurance Coverages?

Yes. Injured Workers can have multiple coverages at the same time.   It is possible that an Injured Worker can have private coverage, medicare and workers’ compensation at the same time.  For Injured Workers with low income and are on social security disability, they may have medicare, medicaid, and workers’ compensation at the same time.

What was the Study’s Overall Finding? Were There Other Findings?

The study found that “that Workers’ Compensation status is independently associated with dissatisfaction with health care compared with other primary payer groups.” Compton J, Glass N, Fowler T. The Effect of Workers’ Compensation Status on the Patient Experience. JB JS Open Access. 2019;4(2):e0003. Published 2019 Jun 11. doi:10.2106/JBJS.OA.19.00003

The study, however, had other findings of interest as well.

Workers’ Compensation treatment rated lower than Private Insurance and Medicaid.   It did, however, rate at about the same level of satisfaction as Medicare. Compton J, Glass N, Fowler T. The Effect of Workers’ Compensation Status on the Patient Experience. JB JS Open Access. 2019;4(2):e0003. Published 2019 Jun 11. doi:10.2106/JBJS.OA.19.00003.

With respect to mental health issues, workers’ compensation treatment, satisfaction was rated lower than private insurance.   It was however comparable to both Medicare and Medicaid patients. Compton J, Glass N, Fowler T. The Effect of Workers’ Compensation Status on the Patient Experience. JB JS Open Access. 2019;4(2):e0003. Published 2019 Jun 11. doi:10.2106/JBJS.OA.19.00003.

There was one area in which there was some higher level of satisfaction with respect  to industrial medical treatment.   This was when the treatment included surgical authorization.  Patients with Workers’ Compensation who were scheduled for a surgical procedure were more likely to be satisfied with their care.  Patients with surgical authorization have higher levels of satisfaction.  Compton J, Glass N, Fowler T. The Effect of Workers’ Compensation Status on the Patient Experience. JB JS Open Access. 2019;4(2):e0003. Published 2019 Jun 11. doi:10.2106/JBJS.OA.19.00003

What Can Be Done to Improve Care Injured Workers’ Satisfaction?

This author believes that the following items may improve the level of satisfaction of industrial medical care.   First, expanded Managed Provider Networks with more doctors to choose from.  Second, improvement of the utilization review process to allow for greater authorization of treatment.

As noted above, Injured Workers are happy when there are results that occur as part of the treatment.  This is shown in their level of satisfaction with respect to surgical authorization.

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.

DOCTORS’ ATTITUDES TOWARDS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION TREATMENT: INJURED WORKERS, THEIR TREATING DOCTORS, AND THEIR MEDICAL TREATMENT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Doctors, as much as Injured Workers, can be frustrated with the administrative process controlling work injury treatment. This frustration is in large part due to the rules, regulations and statutes which govern industrial medical treatment.

California Workers’ Compensation System medical treatment rules for authorization are different than regular health insurance. Thus, treatments that are may be authorized under regular health insurance without difficulty may not be authorized as part of treatment for a workers’ compensation claim.

Part of the difference in treatment between workers’ compensation and regular health insurance is that Workers’ Compensation Law has adopted  Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) as a means of determine what treatment should be authorized. Labor Code 5307.27. adopted a medical treatment utilization schedule which is to incorporate evidence-based, peer-reviewed, and nationally recognized standards of care

This article will discuss Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), how medical providers view EBM, and what an Injured Worker can do to address their workers’ compensation treatment.

What Is Evidence Based Medicine (EBM)?

Evidence Based Medicine looks towards science to determine whether treatment helpful.  Thus, they will look at scientific studies as a basis for treatment.  These studies could include ones in which they look at the benefits of a particular mode of therapy within a population.

For example, if 90 percent of the individuals in a study report a significant benefit from a form of therapy, then, there would be a likelihood that therapy would be recommended in an EBM format.

Also, EBM will look at the quality or strength of studies to determine which ones should be followed.  This determination is made by experts who are qualified to make such an assessment. Benjamin Djulbegovic, Gordon H Guyatt, Progress in evidence-based medicine, The Lancet, Volume 390, Issue 10092, 2017, Pages 415-423, ISSN 0140-6736, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31592-6.

Note: My criticism of EBM is that each patient responds differently towards treatment. Thus, while a treatment may not be considered effective with respect to the general population, it may be something that is effective toward on an individual basis.

An individual may have a history with a particular form of treatment, i.e. chiropractic, which had been effective in the past for the individuals.   Thus, a general scientific study is being chosen against real data concerning the real patient.  It is important to note that it is the real patient who is going to get the treatment and not a statistical patient.  It can be argued that a small scientific study based upon the individual’s success with a treatment is more valuable than a broader study.  Arguably, it is far more relevant.

What Is Workers’ Compensations’ Interest In EBM?

In an article, the following was the commentary with respect to this issue: “[t]he workers’ compensation scheme expects that such a tool (EBM) could reduce the uncertainty about the appropriateness and effectiveness of a treatment. Reducing the uncertainty could speed up the decision-making process and reduce the need to seek second opinions from medical examiners. Health care practitioners would no longer have to complete additional paperwork for those evidence-based treatments. In general, it could facilitate a common understanding across those requesting treatment/services and those reviewing the services requested.” Elbers, N.A., Chase, R., Craig, A. et al. Health care professionals’ attitudes towards evidence-based medicine in the workers’ compensation setting: a cohort study. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 17, 64 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-017-0460-2

Note: While this was the view in the study, this was not an assessment of the California Workers’ Compensation scheme concerning medical treatment.  Despite the EBM approach, doctors are still subjected to considerable amount of paperwork to get treatment authorized.  Further, EBM requests for treatment are still subject to a Utilization Review process and are not automatically authorized.  Further, there is a training problem in that not all medical providers are adequately versed with respect to EBM. As a result, requests for treatment from certain providers may be denied as being improper.

What Is Insurance Companies’ Interest in Evidence Based Medicine?

In an article, it is noted that “[t]he tool is primarily developed to be used by claims managers. However, the treatment approval process is an interaction between claims managers and health care professionals.” Elbers, N.A., Chase, R., Craig, A. et al. Health care professionals’ attitudes towards evidence-based medicine in the workers’ compensation setting: a cohort study. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 17, 64 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-017-0460-2

Thus, EBM is a means upon which Insurance Companies can assert control of medical treatment away from doctors.  They can use EBM to dictate to providers as to what treatment will be authorized. Thus, Insurance Companies have supplanted doctors with decades of experience to determine necessary treatment.

What Are the Criticisms of EBM?

There are a variety of criticisms for EBM.

Cookbook Medicine:  This term has the implication as to whether a doctor is needed.   Thus, all one needs to administer medical care is look at the guidelines.  Thus, who needs training, experience and expertise to provide treatment?

Decreased Professional Freedom:  The profession of medicine is referred to as both a practice and an art.  EBM takes away a doctor’s experience, knowledge and acquired skills from being employed to treat patients.  When I treat for my industrial injuries, I want to go to an experienced and talented doctor.  I do not necessarily want to go to a doctor who knows EBM.

What are the Visions and Problems for EBM?

It may provide guidance to clinicians in that they would know what they can request for authorization.

It may limit over-servicing or over-prescription of a particular medicine or treatment.

It may work as a basis to guide patients’ expectations as to what they can receive and how long their course of treatment will last pending return to work.

It may cause problems in that treatment will be insurance company formulaic as opposed to being dictated by the provider.

It may conflict with patient’s concerns about their treatment and as to what would benefit them.  Sometimes, they are confronted with a doctor wanting to perform surgery and an insurance company denying the authorization.  Also, patients come in conflict with their doctors when they wish to try treatment which is not within EBM guidelines.

There are questions as to the quality and quantity of the evidence that is used. Studies can be generated to produce results favorable to insurance companies’ positions and then adopted within the EBM guidelines.

The article indicated that there may be more timeliness on approval of treatment.   In California, however, as long as treatment requests are sent to UR, there will be delays in providing industrial treatment even if they fall within EBM based guidelines.  Some claims departments have taken an approach of pre-authorizing some forms of treatment to eliminate this process. This has been helpful.

There are concerns with respect to those analyzing the data and recommendations within an EBM setting. There may be some bias involved which may relate to countries, legal systems and forms of medical delivery or insurance.

There are concerns that the Insurance Industry will use EBM as a tool to dictate medical treatment at the expense of the Injured Worker.   There are medical providers who will reject EBM and discontinue treating cases on an industrial basis.  This will leave the field of medical providers as ones who will simply comply with EBM rather than fight for patient’s medical treatment needs.

EBM creates problems.  It creates distrust in medical providers who want to do their job.  It throws out the window medical expertise from providers with decades of experience.   It discourages Injured Workers who simply wish to get their treatment provided on a timely basis. It emboldens Insurance Companies and their representatives to tell Injured Workers that they are better off getting their treatment elsewhere.   This is offensive in that the industrial treatment is mandated to be done through this system.   It is unfair to force injured Workers to treat within a broken or ineffective system.

What are Doctors’ View of Evidence Based Medicine?

Per the study on doctor’s attitude, they noted that “Overall, HCP[health care providers] are supportive of EBM, but have strong concerns about implementation of EBM based decision making in the workers’ compensation setting.

The participants felt that an EBM tool should not be applied rigidly and should take into account clinical judgement and patient variability and preferences.

In general, the treatment approval process in the workers’ compensation insurance system is a sensitive area, in which the interaction between HCP and claims managers can be improved.” Elbers, N.A., Chase, R., Craig, A. et al. Health care professionals’ attitudes towards evidence-based medicine in the workers’ compensation setting: a cohort study. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 17, 64 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-017-0460-2

What Should an Injured Worker Do?

It is very important that an Injured Worker find medical providers that both understanding the paperwork needed to be placed in for treatment requests as well as understand the treatment guidelines which are in part based upon Evidence Based Medicine concepts.

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.

 

 

 

 

ACOEM COVID-19 GUIDELINES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: INJURED WORKERS WITH COVID-19 AND THEIR TREATMENT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Medical Treatment Guidelines are important for Injured Workers.   Medical Treatment Guidelines provide instructions to Physicians as to how and what to request as far as treatments and testing.

ACOEM has issued COVID-19 Guidelines. Recently, there were updated COVID Guidelines on 8/19/20.

This article will discuss the ACOEM COVID-19 Guidelines with respect to workers’ compensation.

What Is ACOEM?

ACOEM is the abbreviation for the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.  ACOEM a physician-led organization that focuses on the health of workers, safety of workplaces, and quality of environments.

Why Are ACOEM Guidelines Important?

Per a News Release of 5/27/20 from the California Department of Industrial Relations, notes that “the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) supports this guidance and plans to adopt and incorporate the ACOEM Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guideline into the Medical Treatment Utilization Schedule (MTUS).”

 As An Injured Worker, Why are These Guidelines Important?

The Guidelines are important because they will give you insight as what testing and treatment will be approved on an industrial basis.  Items not recommended by the Guidelines may not be approved by Insurance Company Utilization Review Programs.

What Are the ACOEM Recommended Testing for COVID?

Testing recommended in the ACOEM Guides are PCR testing, Antigen Testing, and Antibody Testing of Blood Serum.   The first two will be recommended.  The third will be subject to possible UR denial. It is to be used for certain purposes.  ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

What are the ACOEM Recommended Diagnostic Imaging for COVID?

X-Rays are recommended. Note: abnormalities show 10-12 days out from infection.

CT Scans are recommended.  ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

What Medications that are Recommended or Not Recommended for Use for COVID-19?

Hydroxychloroquine is not recommended for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 after the first three days of symptoms. There is no recommendation for or against use of Hydroxychloroquine in the first three days of symptoms ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Chloroquine is not recommended for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 after the first three days of symptoms. There is no recommendation for or against use of Chloroquine in the first three days of symptoms. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine for Widespread Prophylaxis are not recommended. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Azithromycin is not recommended for the adjunctive treatment of selective patients with more severe COVID-19.  There is no recommendation for or against it use within the first three days. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Favipiravir has: no recommendation for or against the use for COVID-19. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Lopinavir / Ritonavir is recommended in combination therapy but is not recommended as a solitary treatment. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Remdesivir is recommended for the supervised treatment of selected patients with COVID-19. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Interleukin 6- Inhibitors are recommended for the treatment of selected patients with COVID-19. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.
Convalescent COVID -19 Antibodies have no recommendation for or against the use. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Glucocorticosteroids are provisionally recommended for the treatment of COVID 19, There are other indications of use that may occur in the context of treatment of COVID-19 for example asthma or COPD. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Interferon Beta-1b: recommended adjunctive use is recommended for treatment of selected patients with COVID-19. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Ribavirin is recommended for adjunctive use of ribavirin for treatment of selected patients with COVID-19 ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Zinc is recommended for potential prevention of more severe disease well as treatment of patients for COVID-19. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

Vitamin D is recommended for potential prevention of more severe disease as well as treatment for patients with COVID-19. ACOEM Covid-19 Guidelines, 8/19/20.

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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