Medical providers who offer care to injured workers vary widely by specialty, as physicians such as orthopedic surgeons and pain management specialists are more likely to have a list of comp patients than those in primary care, according to a study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
Tuesday’s study, Workers Compensation Providers: Describing the Marketplace, examined records from physicians and nonphysicians who treat injured workers, according to WCRI researchers Bogdan Savych and Olesya Fomenko.
It analyzed the physician worker marketplace in 34 states between 2016 and 2018, assessing the types of physicians providing services and the types of injuries among workers.
“For some providers, work-related injuries represent a significant portion of their patient base, while other providers may see workers with injuries only occasionally,”; the researchers wrote.
The study found that providers who manage traumatic injuries for working-age adults are more likely to encounter work-injured patients, and it determined that orthopedic surgeons and emergency medicine physicians were more likely to be involved in the worker system than providers who do end-of-life care or those who are specialized in cancer treatment.
Doctors who run primary care and family practices, on the other hand, don’t see many injured workers, the study found.
“Physicians who treat a large number of workers may be more familiar with the specifics of treating occupational injuries and may have better knowledge of factors that facilitate rapid return to work,” the study says. “Facilitating prompt access to appropriate providers familiar with how to treat work-related injuries is an important component of improving the system for workers.”
The researchers said their findings highlight lessons for comp stakeholders, as it is necessary to examine the physician market before making policy decisions based on “measures of access to medical care and providers.”