The Crucial Role of Medical Providers in Returning Injured Workers to Their Jobs

time lossWhat is the role of medical providers in ensuring a successful recovery for injured workers?

Many occupational medicine specialists consider  a positive outcome for workplace injury recovery to include maximum physical improvement and a speedy return to work. Yet those healthcare providers are generally the most crucial link to both a medical recovery AND a patient’s economic well-being and recovery.  This is because they serve as:

  • the “first responders” during the early moments of injury where occupational medicine interventions are shown to be the most effective.
  • figures of authority in the eyes of patients who can help set appropriate expectations and guide patient involvement in their own recovery.
  • the first to know about recovery barriers and obstacles in a worker’s return to the job.

Occupational health providers also play a central role in establishing a productive relation between the worker, their employer, and the workers’ compensation system (in Washington State, the Department of Labor & Industries) to get the injured worker back on the job.

Missing work from an injury costs individuals more than money.

Although time loss payments can help lessen the impact of lost wages while someone is off duty, they do not replace them entirely.  When lost wages are added to the potential loss of workplace benefits like health insurance and retirement plan contributions, the costs workers incur can be quite staggering. Moreover, the impact on a worker’s family, in addition to potential damage to an individual’s mental state and sense of self-worth can be debilitating as well.

The good news is that with the support of their medical providers, employers and the appropriate resources from L&I, these injured workers could reduce that financial hit by returning to light-duty work or transitional jobs for much of the time loss period.  With 20,000 medical providers in the Labor and Industries (L&I’s) Medical Provider Network, there is an extensive team of highly-qualified professionals ready to help. Often it only takes a few minutes for a provider to help guide a patient back to work by asking the right questions and connecting injured workers with helpful resources.

For more information, order the free Attending Provider’s Return to Work Desk Reference.

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