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Medical providers offering care to injured workers vary greatly by specialty, as doctors such as orthopedic surgeons and pain management specialists are more likely to have a roster of comp patients than those in primary care services, according to a study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
Tuesday’s study, Workers Compensation Providers: Describing the Marketplace, examined records from physicians and non-physicians who treat injured workers, according to WCRI researchers Bogdan Savych and Olesya Fomenko.
It analyzed the workers comp physician marketplace across 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 substantial part of their patient base, while other providers may see workers with injuries only occasionally,” the researchers wrote.
The study found providers handling traumatic injuries for working-age adults are more likely to encounter work-injured patients, and it determined orthopedic surgeons and emergency medicine physicians were more likely to be involved in the workers comp system than providers rendering end-of-life care or those who specialize in cancer treatment.
Doctors running primary care and family practices, on the other hand, don’t see many injured workers, the study states.
“Physicians who treat a substantial number of workers may be more familiar with the peculiarities of treating occupational injuries and may have better knowledge of factors that facilitate timely return to work,” the study states. “Facilitating quick access to appropriate providers who are familiar with how to treat occupational injuries is an important component of improving the system for workers.”
The researchers said their findings highlight lessons for comp stakeholders, as it’s necessary to examine the physician marketplace before crafting policy decisions based on “measures of access to medical care and providers.”