When Injured Workers Meet Tired Doctors

November 16th, 2004 by

Yesterday’s posting on the impact of fatigue on medical treatment raises some interesting issues for workers compensation. The first line of defense for injured employees is the emergency room. You don’t need an appointment. It’s open 24/7. No injury is too severe or, for that matter, too minor. Supervisors routinely send injured employees to the nearest emergency room for treatment. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
But what happens if the doctor examining your employee has been up for 24 hours? How accurate is the diagnosis? How competent is the treatment provided? How alert is the doctor to nuances that might ultimately determine whether the course of treatment results in rapid recovery or a period of prolonged disability?
Beyond that, what kind of a mood would a sleep-deprived doctor be in? Would this doctor treat your employee with patience and respect, or might he or she possibly alienate the employee simply by being in a bad mood brought on by a lack of sleep?
LynchRyan tries to place employers in the best possible position to manage workers compensation costs. We train employers to take charge of injured employees from the moment of injury, through initial and follow up treatment, through the prudent use of modified duty up to full recovery. This is a great system, but it’s dependent upon the provision of excellent medical care.
Which brings us back to the emergency room as the first line of defense. We are not suggesting that emergency rooms be avoided. We do recommend, however, that supervisors meet face to face with injured employees as soon as feasible after initial treatment. The supervisor should make sure that the employee is confident in the quality of medical treatment. If there is any question about the emergency services provided or the diagnosis itself, the supervisor should set up a follow up appointment with an occupational specialist – a specialist who in all likelihood will have benefited from something we all need — a good night’s sleep.