Many employers are unaware of their right to designate a workers’ compensation physician for their injured employees. In the states where this statutory benefit is available, doing so could potentially improve employee recovery time and save costs.
Designating workers’ compensation physicians is best managed before a work-related injury occurs to prevent delay in treatment. In states where this is permitted, employers should contact treating providers before an injury occurs to educate them on their type of business, potential injuries and modified work options that are available as part of a successful return-to-work program.
Employer choice vs. employee choice
Each state’s workers’ compensation laws determine how a physician can be selected. In some states, employers can choose the physician. In other states, the employee chooses their physician. There are also states where a combination of options is available, such as selecting from a panel of employer-approved providers.
In recent years, lawmakers in many states have increased their efforts to modify laws to try to reduce workers’ compensation costs and avoid additional impact to injured employees. But some of the challenges with changing state laws are related to strong opposition on both sides.
Employees and their advocates feel that the choice of treating physician should be left to the employee. They argue that employee choice ensures that the physician has the employee’s best interest in mind.
Employer advocates believe that choice of provider should be made by the employer because this option will help avoid unnecessary treatment and can assist with a successful return to work program by using providers familiar with the job demands and the workers’ compensation system.
The role of the health care provider
The health care provider plays a very important role in the outcome of any workers’ compensation claim, including:
- Diagnosing the condition and assessing its cause, which impacts the medical and indemnity benefits owed to an injured employee.
- Prescribing and providing a course of treatment and disability management, which can assist with how quickly an injured employee can return to work.
- Assessing if the injured employee’s condition has reached maximum medical improvement, if the worker has a permanent impairment, and the extent of any impairment. If a preexisting condition contributed to the impairment, this fact is taken into consideration during the permanency determination process.
Locating a treatment provider before an injury occurs
To learn about employer options for designating a treating provider in your state, visit our website.
Locating a treatment provider after an injury occurs
Send injured employees for medical treatment and make sure they get emergency care, if needed. Once a claim is reported, please call the Nationwide Claims Associate assigned to the claim file to provide assistance with locating a treatment provider.