Physician studying through the OHU courses on his laptop.

Concentra Advances Quality of Care by Creating a New Occupational Health University

By Michelle Hopkins | 12/08/2020

Vital continuing education has experienced gaps

In medicine, changes occur quickly.1 In occupational medicine, changes may occur even faster because these clinicians must keep pace with the continually shifting requirements and needs of 115 industries.2 The quality of care your employees receive depends strongly on the skills and training of the clinicians and therapists providing treatment.

Training in medical schools is exhaustive, and the road to becoming a doctor can take from seven to 15 years or more, along with various boards and licensing requirements.3 Staying in top form in fast-changing medical fields requires training access and structure, but these have been largely ad hoc in occupational health care. That is to say, while there are several fine continuing education courses for occupational health clinicians, they come from diverse sources that are not unified and synchronized with each other.

There are three limitations to relying substantially on this ad hoc approach. First,  the models of care that guide and inform the instruction offered may differ, leaving it up to the clinician to interpret and apply training to the practice of occupational medicine in treating employees. Second, clinicians are on their own to search among the continuing education offerings from professional associations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), state and regional programs, universities, training institutes, and others. If the priorities of these programs change without notice, as may happen, desired courses may vanish unpredictably, a third limitation.

Occupational Health University: A game changer for an important specialty

In 2020, Concentra® established Occupational Health University (OHU) to help our affiliated clinicians overcome the limitations of continuing education. OHU is a clinical education program designed to provide Concentra clinicians with access to quality continuing education focused on occupational health. Concentra clinicians benefit from the self-paced, holistic, online learning approach to occupational medicine, with a specially designed curriculum for medical clinicians and another one for physical therapists. The curriculum incorporates curated content, data analysis, meetings with employers and Concentra leadership, and tools to foster performance excellence. These tools include one-on-one debriefing sessions and individual scorecards. 
OHU graduated its first class of 20 students (medical clinicians and therapists) in November 2020.

OHU was developed under the clinical leadership of John Anderson, DO, Concentra’s chief medical officer, and Giovanni Gallara, MPT, PT, senior vice president of national therapy and ancillary services. Crucial to the development of the curriculum in their respective disciplines were Barry Magnus, MD, Lisa Figueroa, MD, and Mark Glover, DPT, PT, vice president of therapy services, along with Concentra’s internal Learning and Development team headed by Amy Barbour.4

Concentra is dedicated to achieving a high standard in occupational health care that manifests in consistent excellent outcomes, reduced costs through shorter case durations, and strengthened relationships between clinicians, employers, and payors. This dedication is expressed not only in the development of OHU but also the Concentra Occupational Health Research Institute (COHRI), which began in 2000, promoting occupational medicine education and filling a void in occupational and preventive medicine research.

Concentra’s clinical training focus and model of care

OHU’s curriculum exists in three levels of intensity. It focuses on the elements of occupational medicine from foundational knowledge in OHU 100 (clinical orientation program) to more advanced knowledge in Levels 200 and 300. This provides a solid background and understanding for an effective and confident clinical practice.

“OHU students learn to apply an evidence-based, biopsychosocial, integrative care model that has been largely unavailable or even understood outside of occupational medicine and workers’ compensation,” says Giovanni Gallara, PT. “The model helps clinicians manage injured employee care more effectively and achieve the best possible clinical outcomes, and it is one we have been refining for more than 30 years in Concentra’s care of injured employees.”

A biological model of care that is traditionally taught in medical school and postgraduate programs might approach an injury by treating the injured area and advising extended rest and healing time. Conversely, a biopsychosocial approach addresses the psychological and social factors that motivate an employee to actively participate in their treatment plan, which often includes return to work in some capacity to prevent issues that can adversely affect healing. Those issues can include feelings of social isolation, fear of job loss, loss of income, and even anger or hostility toward a perceived uncaring employer. Eliminating these barriers can promote recovery and avoidance of unnecessary disability, as well as reduce lost time, lost productivity, and total case costs, says Dr. Anderson.

OHU’s rigorous curriculum keeps clinicians treating employees

Through OHU, medical clinicians and therapists learn how to effectively engage with employers and payors to manage cases and drive exceptional clinical outcomes. While there are several excellent programs outside of Concentra that lead to board eligibility status, OHU provides an option to Concentra’s physicians to develop the knowledge and skills needed to excel within their practice. Each student is mentored by his or her respective medical director and has access to many exceptional clinicians within the practice who are subject matter experts in their respective fields, many of whom serve on Concentra’s Medical Expert Panels. OHU students do not need to go elsewhere for professional growth and development, which supports loyalty, retention, and consistency in care.

All OHU coursework is completed after hours, not during the work day, so clinicians continue to manage a full schedule. Courses are developed by Concentra’s medical and therapy leaders; and because learning is taking place while working, OHU students are able to apply their newly acquired knowledge immediately. A major advantage of the program is that the clinicians have the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of new knowledge and skills through presentations, research articles, and performance of tasks real-time in their clinic environment.

OHU graduates are best-in-class occupational health care leaders

OHU graduates are taught how to incorporate their training into Concentra’s well-developed “five keys” of a best-in-class occupational health program:

  1. Employer engagement
  2. Employee engagement
  3. Clear communication
  4. Quality medical outcomes
  5. Workforce health

Concentra’s best-in-class occupational medicine program fosters a stronger collaboration through employer and employee engagement and care that is designed with the employee and the workplace in mind. Clear communication with both the employee and the employer and briskly paced care keep cases progressing to resolution and functional restoration. Clinicians can help to identify and act on cases where progress is slower than expected so that the march toward maximizing outcomes continues. The last component, workforce health, refers to employee and job risk assessments, injury prevention programs and training, regulatory compliance in workplace health and safety, and monitoring employee health.

Conclusion

In November, OHU commemorated its first graduating class of 10 medical clinicians and 10 therapists who completed the 200-level curriculum. Concurrently, the next round of OHU student nominations took place.

“Concentra’s Clinical Analytics and Quality team will continue to monitor the clinical outcomes of our graduates to understand the influence that OHU has in promoting superior employee care. With each subsequent graduating class, we anticipate that adherence to Concentra’s care model will reach new heights, achieving our goal of providing exceptional occupational health care that translates into better employee health and lower health care costs,” says Dr. Anderson.


NOTES
1 “For Doctors Who Take a Break, Coming Back Can Be Tough,” by Anna Gorman. Kaiser Health News, 2015. https://khn.org/news/for-doctors-who-take-a-break-from-practice-coming-back-can-be-tough/   
2 Industries at a Glance. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed November 8, 2020. https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag_index_alpha.htm
3 The Road to Becoming a Doctor. Association of American Medical Colleges. November 2020. https://www.aamc.org/system/files/2019-12/Road_to_Becoming_a_Doctor_December%202019.pdf.   
4 “Next-Level Occ-Health Training Will Help Improve Care for Injured Employees,” by Michelle Kerr. Risk&Insurance. August 4, 2020. https://riskandinsurance.com/next-level-occ-health-training-will-help-improve-care-for-injured-employees/