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Dear Dr. X – I really don’t understand the note I received from your office, can the employee come back to work or not? What do you mean he has a five pound lifting restriction – he doesn’t lift anything all day!

       

This scenario plays out at countless companies on a daily basis, the frustration of getting treating physicians to join the return to work team. The key question for employers, did you explain your return to work goals to the physicians who treat your injured employees? Are we asking physicians to be mind readers? Or are we allowing our employees, who may have their own agenda, to determine their return to work options?

Workers Compensation is a team sport – everyone has to work for the same goal on the same team – unfortunately medical treatment often creates a disconnect between the goal of the employer – return to work; the goal of the employee – stay at home a little bit longer and the goal of the treating doctor – fill out volumes of paperwork so he or she can get paid and keep everyone happy in the process.

It is remarkable to review statistics that compare the length of time an employee is off work due to non-work–related injuries and the length of time they are off work due to a work-related injury. If you compare diagnosis, prognosis and treatment, the work-related disability statistics are significantly higher. If you remove the fact that the injury happened at work, most individuals would recover and resume their regular duties very quickly. Adding the workers’ compensation component creates a sudden extension of symptoms, treatment and a distinct delay in the amount of time required to return to an active lifestyle.

We all know that even when you are on a team, individuals play with their own self interest – this is no different in workers compensation. The significant difference between team sports and workers compensation – someone has to pay when treatment decisions delay the injured workers ability to access appropriate timely medical treatment or when the employer can not get appropriate information to get the injured worker back to work timely.

How do you get everyone to work on your return to work team?

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