Occupational medicine. You’re kidding, right? It involves a lot of paperwork, phone calls, employer meetings, union representatives, state administrative codes, federal regulations, urgent fit for duty exams.
And often times, it also involves this request – “Can you give me a week off to recover, Doc?”
April is National Occupational Medicine month. You might be thinking – “How could this possibly be a practice a doctor finds enjoyable?” It sounds more like a recipe for chronic daily headaches! Certainly, it doesn’t possess the prestige of cardiology, the panache of neurosurgery, or the lifestyle of dermatology.
However, there is something about occupational medicine that is truly unique and wonderful. A doctor or clinical specialist is duty bound to do the right thing for all stakeholders: the patient, employer, and the state fund/insurer. And that, it turns out, is a good thing.
Other ways that occupational medicine differs from other medical practices? For example, at U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group we typically see patients at the request of the employer. We are a single-solution provider that employers, patients and insurance companies can trust to optimize the quality of patient care we provide, while assisting with complex healthcare issues.
Our occupational medicine runs the gamut, from wellness and injury prevention to early return-to-work programs. It meets the specific needs of the employer, while attending to the health and safety of the patient.
Every injured worker is thoroughly evaluated. A careful and thorough history of the patient is executed and a reasoned decision is made if the injury was in fact work-related.
The next step is a treatment plan that maximizes the employee’s recovery, while minimizing the lost work productivity to the employer. Our occupational healthcare facilities do their absolute best to turn this into a win for both worker and employer.
But occupational medicine is much more diverse; it’s not all about treating injured workers. Other areas of our expertise include:
- Pre-employment physical exams
- Physical ability testing
- Drug and alcohol testing
- National Medical Review Officer (MRO) Services
- Partnering with employer health and safety, and human resource departments to coordinate Hazmat, Asbestos, Respiratory Protection, and other types of surveillance exams
- Vaccination programs
- Specialty care that includes orthopedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, spine specialist, anesthesiology/pain management, plastic surgery, hand surgery, neurology, and podiatry
Yes, occupational medicine can be a difficult balancing act and some days it does cause headaches. But take it from this doctor – it is truly rewarding. Why? Because when done correctly, everyone comes out ahead. We don’t just help our patients. We help all the stakeholders and even the economy.
Yes, that’s right, even the economy.
For example, when possible, we keep an injured worker right where he wants to be – at work. The data is strong. Treated by an occupational healthcare doctor or specialist, it’s a fact that workers recover more quickly. They also have a better chance of full recovery. And, in the long run, they are financially better off.
For the company, there are benefits as well because workers can continue to contribute even when placed on light or modified duty.
All told, the companies pay less for workers’ compensation coverage, they have a healthy workforce that produces more, and the economy thrives. There’s the evidence; occupational medicine does play a role in helping the economy.
So next time you are shopping for lettuce, think about how many workers might have been involved in getting that lettuce to your store. Think about their jobs and how important it is to have healthy farmers, warehouse workers, truck drivers, and grocery store employees.
Maybe some of the workers were injured in the course of producing that lettuce. Hopefully they received what U.S. HealthWorks calls, “The Right Care, Right Away,” and are continuing on in their productive work lives … so that we can continue to enjoy our salads.
Better yet, maybe none of the workers were injured producing the lettuce because their occupational provider gave a great safety talk. But that’s another topic for another time.
Yes, there is joy in occupational medicine. It sometimes is lost in the details of the day’s work, but if we take a step back for the big picture, the expertise we provide is helping a lot of people and our economy too!
David Hoffman, MD, is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks. Dr. Hoffman works in our Washington centers.
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