THE OPIOID RISK TOOL(ORT) AND WORK INJURY TREATMENT: WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AND NARCOTIC MEDICATIONS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

In the field of medicine, tools are used to assess treatment’s nature and course.  These tools are used to make assessments to medical treatment. The tools are frequently questionnaires filled out by patients on their own.   These tools are considered a cost-effective and reliable means of obtaining information.

Opioid medications can be prescribed to treat work injuries. They can be used in circumstances of acute injuries and in circumstances of chronic pain. Medical Providers are very concerned over prescribed opioid medications as they are controlled substances and are subject to governmental scrutiny.

This article will discuss the Opioid Risk Tool (ORT), the topics addressed, in the ORT, how the ORT is scored, and why it is the ORT is important.

Are Opioids a Problem Within Workers’ Compensation?

It is reported that the “NCCI data shows that injured workers who were prescribed at least one prescription in 2016 received three times as many opioid prescriptions as the US opioid prescribing rate. These figures illustrate that workers compensation is directly affected by the far-reaching societal impacts of the opioid epidemic in the United States.” ncci

What Is the Opioid Risk Tool (ORT)?

 The ORT was developed by Webster, et al. as a “self-performed screening tool designed for use by adult patients in primary care settings before beginning opioid treatment for pain management.” ncbi

Note: within workers’ compensation medical treatment, there is concern and analysis over what is medically appropriate treatment that is intended to cure or relieve the effects of an injury pursuant to Labor Code Section 4600.   The ORT can be used as a basis for approving or denying the provision of narcotic medications. The ORT information may be employed by Utilization Review and Independent Medical Review for approval or denial of opioid prescriptions.

What are the Topics in the ORT?

The ORT includes the following topics:

  • Patient’s Gender
  • Patient’s Family History of Substance Abuse
    1. Alcohol
    2. Illegal Drugs
    3. Prescription Drugs
  • Patient’s Personal History of Substance Abuse
    1. Alcohol
    2. Illegal Drugs
    3. Prescription Drugs
  • Patient’s Age Range of Patient, Specially between 16 to 45 years
  • Patient’s History of Preadolescent Sexual Abuse
  • Patient’s Psychological Disease
    1. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
    2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
    3. Bipolar Disorder
    4. Schizophrenia
    5. Depression

How Is the Questionnaire Scored?

The scoring on the questions are as follow:

“Family history of substance abuse including alcohol (Female=1; Male=3), illegal drugs (2;3), and/or prescription drugs (4;4) Personal history of substance abuse including alcohol (Female=3; Male=3), illegal drugs (4;4), and/or prescription drugs (5;5) Whether the patient age range is between 16 to 45 years (1;1) A history of preadolescent sexual abuse (3;0) Psychological disease including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia (2;2); and/or depression (1;1).ncbi 

Note: There are gender differences when scoring the test.   Some drug and alcohol abuse answers score higher for males, and only females receive a score on the issue of preadolescent sexual abuse.

What Does the Score Mean?

“Scores are summed, and a score of 3 or below suggests a low risk for future opioid abuse, while a score of 4 to 7 indicates moderate risk. A score of 8 or greater suggests a high risk of future abusive drug-related behavior.” ncbi

Note:  Score suggesting a high risk of future abusive drug-related behavior may be used to call into question prescriptions for those patients.

How Does This Impact Injured Workers?

Medical providers will analyze these scores as part of their decision to prescribe opioid medications.  If the scores are too high, it is likely that a provider will consider alternative forms of medication and treatment for the individual to avoid the possibility of substance abuse.

Further, if opioids are prescribed to at risk patients, there may be additional monitoring taking place. “ Higher risk patients require more frequent monitoring than lower-risk patients. Follow-ups may include re-screening of risk, urine drug screening, and observation for other clues of drug abuse. These clues may consist of requests for dose escalation, doctor shopping, forging prescriptions, requesting early prescriptions, unscheduled clinic visits, or emergency room visits with complaints of pain.” ncbi 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553147/

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.

THE PAIN, ENJOYMENT AND GENERAL ACTIVITY SCALE (PEG) AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The California Workers’ Compensation System employs various scales and tests to assist with Injured Workers’ evaluation and treatment.  One of these tests is the Pain, Enjoyment and General Activity Scale (PEG.)

This article will discuss the PEG Scale and how it can be used within the workers’ compensation system.

Why Are Scales Used in General?

Scales can be used for many reasons.   Scales are generally self-reporting. Thus, all that is needed to administer one is a pen, a clipboard, and the questionnaire. Thus, they are a cheap, quick and easy way to extract information from Injured Workers. Scales can show that an injured Worker is credible.  They can show that an Injured Worker is malingering or exaggerating. Scales can show a cry for help.

One way a scale can be used Is by comparing them to prior scales.  When compared, it can show a patient’s assessment of medical improvement or lack thereof.

Scales are employed by medical examiners, treaters and utilization review evaluators to assess the Injured Workers’ disability status, permanent disability, and whether forms of treatment are indicated and should be approved.

In an article discussing PEG, it was noted that “[t]he competing demands of primary care, in which visits are short and pain is only one of several problems warranting attention, make efficiency of assessment a paramount concern.  A balance must be found between feasibility and key characteristics such as reliability, validity, and responsiveness.”  Krebs EE, Lorenz KA, Bair MJ, et al. Development and initial validation of the PEG, a three-item scale assessing pain intensity and interference. J Gen Intern Med. 2009;24(6):733-738. doi:10.1007/s11606-009-0981-1

What Is PEG Scale’s Complete Name?  How Does It Relate to Workers’ Compensation?

The PEG Scale’s full name is the Pain, Enjoyment of Life and General Activity Scale.

California Workers’ Compensation Law employs the AMA Guides to assess permanent impairment.  In the assessment of permanent impairment, Pain is a factor that is considered.  Also, Activities of Daily Living is also a factor.

In sum, the scale overlaps some of these issues.

What Does the PEG Scale Consist Of?

The PEG Scale consists of three questions that are rated from 0 to 10.

What is the Pain Scale’s First Question?

The first question is “what number best describes your pain on average in the past week?”

How is the First Scale Question Answered?

The question is answered in a 0 to 10 scale. 0 being “no pain” to 10 being “pain as bad as you can imagine.”

What is the Second Question of the Pain Scale?

The second question is “what number best describes how, during the past week, pain has interfered with your enjoyment of life?”

How is the Second Question Answered?

The question is answered in a 0 to 10 scale. 0 being “does not interfere” to 10 being “completely interferes.”

What is the Third Question on the Pain Scale?

The third question is “what number best describes how, during the past week, pain has interfered with your general activity?”

How is the Third Question Answered?

The question is answered in a 0 to 10 scale. 0 being “does not interfere” to 10, “completely interferes.”

How is the PEG Scale Scored?

The scale is scored by adding up all three numbers and dividing by 3.

What Is the PEG Scale Specifically Used For?

“This scale can be administered in person at a clinic or hospital, answered via phone interview or personally completed at home. It is a flexible scale that can be used for many scenarios. For example, the PEG scale is often used to determine if a medication is effective; using it for this purpose helps determine an individual’s level of functioning while taking medication(s). Individuals who show a stable level of functioning, with no other factors that suggest a dosage adjustment, a medication taper or a medication change is needed, would then continue on their medication regime.”  Painscale.com

Is There Any Advice to An Injured Worker?

Yes. These scales will be used possibly for two purposes: first, to evaluate your credibility, and  second, to evaluate your improvement with respect to prescription medications and treatment.

Thus, it is best to make your best efforts to accurately answer them.

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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