There is an avoidable hardship many doctors are causing their patients. Here are some suggestions on how you can help your patients survive their injuries. A hardship occurs when the patient is discharged without any impairment rating yet they are unable to return to work due to work restrictions from their injury.
The effect of discharging your patient. (discharging is used synonymously with permanent and stationary or maximum medical improvement.) with no impairment rating, or saying they need to be referred to another doctor for a rating, has the effect of cutting off their temporary disability benefits, immediately, with no warning, and no way to receive the next benefit permanent disability for months to come.
When the injured worker finally gets to see a QME doctor to assess the permanent impairment, and a report is written, then they would be entitled to some permanent disability benefits. The permanent disability benefit is about half as much as temporary disability and only last for a limited time period.
Imagine losing your paycheck and barely getting by with temporary disability and then getting cut off completely with no warning and then finding out it will take months to see another doctor about your rating before any further benefits with continue.
So here is what you can do about it. Warn your patients the discharge is coming, or at least report a cursory rating when they have permanent impairment. Permanent Impairment is assessed through the American Medical Associations Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Fifth Edition The Guides are not that difficult to learn. Even lawyers have figured them out. If you need any assistance we can provide you with copies of the relevant chapters or technical assistance about where to apply medical facts to the chapters in the book. In most cases a simple chart or paragraph is applicable. The lawyers can always dispute the cursory rating if we think it is incorrect via a QME examination but at least there is a basis to continue payments while your patient waits in limbo for the bureaucratic process.
You could also suggest to the parties that your patient is close to becoming stationary and that you are requesting that a QME get set up now.
Even though worker’s compensation benefits stop your patient might be able to keep their home or avoid homelessness a little longer while they try and figure a way to re-enter the work force through State disability benefits. (EDD) or social security disability. These benefits require that a short form gets filled out by the doctor. Please assist your patients with these other forms so they can survive their injury and this thoughtless system.