Navigating the Medical Treatment Maze in a Workers' Compensation Claim
Navigating the medical treatment maze in a workers’ compensation claim can be a frustrating experience. A lot of the problems my clients run into are due to a breakdown in communication between the client as a patient and the authorized workers’ compensation doctor. Under New Jersey law, employers, through their insurance carriers have the absolute right to pick your doctor if you have been injured at work. This does not mean you are helpless. A recent Consumer Reports article entitled “What doctors wish their patients knew” offers useful advice for injured workers.
According to the Consumer Reports survey, 61% of patients said they researched health information on the internet to help with their medical care. However, only 8% of doctors said that the internet research by patients was very helpful. Having some knowledge of your injury or condition can be a good thing, but it can go too far. If you are telling the doctor what he or she needs to prescribe or self-diagnosing, you will probably meet some resistance.
If you’re going to research on the internet, Consumer Reports recommends that instead of starting by entering the name of your condition, you should go directly to a reliable website to start your search. If you’re going to research your injury or condition, Consumer Reports recommends the following sites as reputable sources of information:
- MedlinePlus (information about conditions or diseases)
- Food and Drug Administration
- Mayo Clinic
- Cleveland Clinic
It is also recommended that if you bring any internet research to the doctor’s office, only print out the relevant portion, as your time with the doctor is limited. The study suggests that you should write down a list of questions before you go to the doctor’s office, and make sure they’re in priority order in case you can’t fit them all in. Another good tip is to ask the doctor if you can follow up with him via e-mail if you have any additional questions. This allows the doctor to respond to your additional questions at his or her convenience, but cuts down on the number of hoops you need to jump through to ask the doctor a question.
Doctors said that being respectful to your physician was the second most important thing that patients could do to obtain better care. You have every right to expect a high level of professionalism from your doctor regardless of whether you were injured at work or at home. The article offers good advice “Feel free to discuss, even debate your doctor’s treatment plan while you’re still in the office. Then do your best to comply.”
What was the top complaint of doctors surveyed? Non-compliance with medical treatment. This includes taking medication, following through on home exercise and carries over to returning to work on a light duty basis if your doctor says to. If you try to go back to work, and it doesn’t work out, you have much more credibility than telling the doctor in the exam room that it’s just not possible.
Your employer through its insurance carrier picks your treating doctor. You cannot go out on your own to seek treatment or a second opinion without running the risk of being personally responsible for the cost of the treatment. There are very few exceptions to this rule and you should consult with one of the attorneys at Stark & Stark before ever attempting to treat on your own. At Stark & Stark we have a great deal of experience dealing with the medical issues that arise in a workers’ compensation claim. In addition to obtaining a financial award for any permanent injuries at the end of your claim, we can help you with your medical treatment issues.