Specialty Care: A Simple Solution for Complex, Wintertime Work Injuries

Lawrence Buirse
Some employees must brave all types of weather conditions to perform their jobs. But wintertime presents a unique set of challenges for workforces. From slips and falls to complications caused by overexposure to the cold, wintertime raises the risk of work-related injuries and illnesses. Some wintertime work injuries don’t appear serious at first, but an injured employee may experience lingering effects several days or even weeks after the injury occurred. Every work-related injury is different, and even some common conditions can require a level of medical expertise the average primary care or emergency department physician may not offer. For these types of workplace injuries, specialty care could be needed.

Benefits of specialty care

Working with specialists with experience treating occupational injuries helps to ensure employers are partnering with care providers who understand workers’ compensation claims management and the return-to-work (RTW) process. Their specialized level of care can directly impact key areas that matter to businesses, such as:

  • Productivity
  • Claims case duration
  • Direct and indirect employer costs

Ideally, partnering with specialists who treat complex work injuries can provide the kind of end-to-end care that promotes efficient care coordination during a work injury claim. When this occurs, businesses are less likely to absorb the costs and/or penalties associated with:

  • Medically unnecessary treatments
  • Workers’ compensation fraud
  • Litigation in workers’ compensation claims

Which industries benefit the most from specialty care?

No industry is immune to the short- and long-term effects of occupational injuries. Specialty care could be recommended for the office worker with carpal tunnel syndrome or the construction worker with a lower back injury.

Today, most industries are contending with labor shortages and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. An understaffed workforce can be more vulnerable to repetitive stress injuries, which can lead to potential losses in productivity and revenue for businesses. The challenges caused by labor shortages and the pandemic combined with the risks associated with working in cold weather can lead to various acute injuries and chronic conditions. Specialty care could help to minimize lost work time by delivering the appropriate treatment to increase an employee’s chances of recovering faster and resuming work duties sooner with minimal risk of re-injury.

Selecting a specialty care provider

When selecting a specialty care provider, Concentra® recommends the following:

  1. Partner with an occupational health provider. When it comes to workers’ compensation cases, it’s always advisable to partner with an occupational health provider. Choose one who enlists physicians who understand the difference between everyday injuries and work-related conditions and can leverage that knowledge to manage workers’ compensation cases with an employer’s best interest in mind.
  2. Make sure the provider is accessible. This feature is especially important for businesses that operate in multiple states. When an employee gets injured, one of the biggest deterrents to treatment and recovery is access to care. If the injured employee can attend all medical appointments in the same medical facility, both treatment plan compliance and the employee’s recovery may improve. Plus, this allows employers to have a single care source for streamlined billing.
  3. Choose a provider with multiple specialties. A specialty care provider should cover a broad range of medical specialties for true end-to-end care. Not having it means injured employees may not get the appropriate treatment in a timely manner, if at all. When the quality of care is compromised, recovery can linger while medical costs soar. Plus, if the provider cannot support a broad range of medical specialties, an employer could be forced to retain medical care from multiple providers—a decision that could drive up total medical costs per work injury claim.
  4. Remember that communication is key. Managing a work-related injury can be stressful for both the employer and the injured employee. The situation shouldn’t be worsened by ambiguous details surrounding the diagnosis, injury severity, treatment plan, work restrictions, etc. The level of communication during a workers’ compensation claim directly impacts the employee’s health outcomes and an employer’s overall claims cost. A specialty care team should understand the importance of clear communication—something that will be evident by how openly and consistently a provider communicates with stakeholders throughout an injury case.

Concentra Advanced Specialists

Most employers are on a level playing field when it comes to managing common work injuries. It’s how they manage complex work injuries that separates some employers from the pack. Concentra has a nationwide network of independent clinicians who specialize in treating employees with complex occupational injuries and illnesses. Concentra Advanced Specialists (CAS) provide specialty surgical and non-surgical care of orthopedic and musculoskeletal injuries, acute work-related conditions, and various disabling conditions that affect today’s workforce.

About CAS

  • Nearly 600 active specialists in 38 states
  • 15 medical specialties and subspecialties
  • Approximately 500,000 specialty care visits annually

Range of services

CAS medical specialties and subspecialties include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care
  • Foot and ankle orthopedics
  • Orthopedics
  • Surgery
  • Hand surgery
  • Neurology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Pain management
  • Physiatry
  • Plastic surgery
  • Podiatry
  • Psychiatry
  • Orthopedic spine surgery

How CAS works

Let’s say an electrical lineman slips on an icy sidewalk after climbing down a power pole and gets evaluated at a local Concentra medical center. The physician may recommend a modified duty restriction. As part of the injured employee’s RTW plan, the physician also may need to refer the employee to specialty care to determine if it’s an orthopedic injury. If specialty care is authorized by the employer, Concentra would manage the authorization and schedule care with a specialist who conducts an evaluation and recommends treatment. If surgery is recommended, the specialist would perform the procedure either at a private medical facility or free-standing surgery center. Otherwise, treatment would take place either at the Concentra medical center where the employee was first seen or at a different Concentra medical center. The specialist and referring physician would communicate throughout treatment until the employee is cleared to resume normal work duties.

Specialty care promotes accurate diagnoses, better decision-making

When advanced diagnostic, therapeutic, or surgical services are required to ensure employee injury recovery, employers should partner with an interdisciplinary team of specialists who can help a business maintain compliance with workers’ compensation regulations and facilitate a seamless RTW strategy. Specialty care can also help to paint a clearer picture of the extent of an employee’s injury and its subsequent impact on business. Learn more about Concentra’s specialty care services or contact your local Concentra medical center to learn which specialties are available in your area.