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Can I Choose My Injured Workers’ Rehab and Physical Therapy Provider?

Can I Choose My Injured Workers’ Rehab and Physical Therapy Provider?

Updated June 9, 2021 Originally published March 17, 2016
Julian Alexander

Can I Choose My Injured Workers’ Rehab and Physical Therapy Provider? http://www.onsite-physio.com/workplace-wellness-programs/can-i-choose-my-injured-workers-rehab-and-physical-therapy-provider @onsitephysio

Each state sets its own workers’ compensation laws. Whether or not you can choose your injured workers’ physical therapy provider depends on where you are. Some states allow employers to make this decision. Others allow employees themselves to decide. Does your company take part in a managed health care network? That may also affect your ability to choose a physical therapy provider.

“Many people don’t realize the importance of choosing the right therapist and the right facility for their needs.” That’s according to JeMe Cioppa-Mosca and Robin Benick. They are rehabilitation experts at The Hospital for Special Surgery (@hspecialsurgery). In a recent article, they wrote that “not all rehabilitation facilities are created equal.” The type of care can vary, and so can the level of care. It takes research to find a good match for your company’s needs.

But who decides? Your injured worker’s orthopedic physician decides whether the person needs physical therapy. Some doctors have physical therapists on staff within their practice. Or they may recommend a physical therapist who works nearby. The doctor may have a financial interest in their own clinic or that offsite clinic. It’s important for you as an employer to be aware of these potential conflicts of interest.

The American Physical Therapy Association says conflicts “can lead to excessive visits and services.” In the end, they say, the decision is yours. “Even if you are in a state that requires a physician referral, you can still choose a facility other than the one [the] physician recommends.” 

How Do You Make the Right Choice?

There is only one way to find the best rehab and physical therapy provider for your injured workers. Interview your prospects.

Who will treat your people?

“Call the facility and ask questions,” suggest Cioppa-Mosca and Benick. Your goal? “Make sure there are physical therapists with expertise in treating your particular problem.” 

You may find excellent rehabilitation providers that specialize in treating other types of problems. Common examples include sports, stroke, cardiac or accident-related injuries. Your best choice will be a provider that specializes in treating injured workers. It’s one thing to instruct someone in alternative methods of daily living. It takes a different approach and expertise to help someone return to work.             

Ask who will treat your injured workers. Larger clinics often hire and employ physical therapy aides and/or assistants. These individuals can perform certain treatments but not others. They specifically are not fully trained to practice physical therapy.

Cioppa-Mosca and Benick say “physical therapy is a balance between science, art and experience.” Tweet this quote. Certain physical therapists have special areas of interest. Some have extra training in certain techniques.” At PhysNet, all of our therapists specialize exclusively in treating injured workers.

Insist on physical therapists who:

  • Have a current license. Your state’s Physical Therapy Board can verify that.
  • Have current knowledge of or are willing to spend the time to learn the needs and demands of the workers in your particular industry.
  • Have extensive experience treating musculoskeletal injuries. These injuries account for most workers’ comp physical therapy referrals.
  • Have a personality that meshes well with your employees. Patient-therapist trust can speed recovery.
  • Communicate well, with your injured workers and with you

Ask about the range of treatments and techniques they have at their disposal. Each injured worker’s plan of care will be different. It will be based on their injuries as well as the specific movements and positions of their job. These details determine what techniques and equipment the therapist will use. PhysNet therapists bring everything they need right to your worker’s jobsite. It’s like having an on-demand on-site clinic. But you don’t have to pay the cost to build or maintain it.

Where will treatment take place?

Experts recommend a location that is convenient for your injured worker. That helps ensure compliance with their therapy schedule. What better convenience than on-site?

Ask whether a single therapist will treat each worker. Some clinics have many physical therapists. Your employee may be “handed around” from one provider to another. This can disrupt treatment continuity. That’s especially true if the new therapist doesn’t know or follow the plan of care. Changing providers also makes it difficult for your worker to develop a trusting relationship. 

In some clinics, patients have to wait around for treatment. Therapists are busy with other people. How can your injured worker get superior treatment from a distracted therapist? This never happens with on-site PT. Personalized, job-specific sessions are proven to help workers recover and return to work faster. Treatment is performed one-on-one! 

It can also be difficult to schedule sessions at busy clinics. Scheduling problems can result in delayed treatment and prolonged days off work. That’s depressing for your injured worker and expensive for your company.

With on-site physical therapy, the choice is entirely yours. You’re doing what’s best for your injured workers and for your company. It may be up to you to choose the right provider. But your injured workers must also take personal responsibility for their recovery. On-site physical therapy facilitates this collaboration:

  • Each therapist schedules sessions directly with his or her patients. That ensures timing is convenient for the injured worker. They can go to their regular workplace for therapy, rather than an offsite clinic.
  • Patients have the undivided attention of their therapist throughout their treatment session. And they learn to do their actual job in a safer manner as they recover.
  • Communication is easy. 

Two employers say this about choosing an on-site physical therapy provider:

  • “With PhysNet, you will see better functional outcomes, faster return to work statistics, decreased indemnity cost and lost time days.” (Case Manager, Not-for-Profit)
  • “Our savings have been realized by getting employees trained properly so they do not re-injure themselves. This treatment model trains the employee for their specific tasks in their natural job environment, rather than a clinic where everything is simulated.” (Hospitality Executive)

You should feel 100% confident in your rehab and physical therapy provider. So should your employees. So ask how you’ll know if your people are getting better. Rehab isn’t a goal, it’s a means to an end. Return to work is everyone’s goal. 

Ongoing communication is the key. The right provider will give you regular updates on individual injured workers. You will also receive periodic reports on all pending claims. And you should be able to call a dedicated representative any time you have questions.National Benchmark Survey - Onsite Physio

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