by: Lawrence Earl, MD
December 31, 2021

A great occupational medicine program works in partnership with employers to “co-design” services that ensure the employees of the company are safe and healthy.

At it’s core, occupational medicine specialists work to diagnose, treat, and prevent occupational illnesses. They also educate employers about safety issues in the workplace. A good occupational health specialist will always be looking for ways to improve the safety practices of their clients’ workplaces while educating them on what they can do themselves at home or in the office to avoid injury.

In addition to workers compensation injury and illness care, the other “core” services include drug testing and employment-related examinations.

Employers looking for a great occupational medicine program are going to ask the following questions:

-What kind of partnership do you have with local employers?

-What is your early intervention policy?

-How knowledgeable are you about workers’ compensation laws?

-What preventive services do you offer?

-Do you have any case studies or success stories that I can read about?

Workers Compensation Injury Care

One important aspect of a great occupational medicine program is early intervention. If an employee is injured on the job, it’s critical that they receive treatment as soon as possible to prevent the injury from becoming worse. The earlier an injury can be treated, the less likely it is to cause long-term damage.

The practice must be able to see these initial injuries immediately, or coordinate with urgent care or ED visits if after hours.

An effective occupational health specialist will also have a good working knowledge of workers’ compensation laws and be able to help employees navigate through the claim process. They will also work with employers to ensure that employees are getting the medical care they need while still being able to return to work as soon as possible.

The providers will have intimate knowledge of the OSHA recordable criteria and avoid unnecessarily prescribing medications or other treatments when the injury may otherwise be treated as a “first aid” case.

Employers will have immediate and frequent communication on every visit for an injury with a detailed return to work report. The provider will personally speak with the employer and/or adjuster for these 4 conditions:

New injury assessment

Any time taken off duty

Significant change from previous plan

Referral to specialist, PT or advanced diagnostics

The providers will have knowledge of injury management conforming to best practice guidelines from ACOEM and other reliable sources, or by using a tool like OccDocOne.

When a patient is referred out the practice will follow up for return to work assessments and MMI (max medical improvement) determinations to avoid falling through the cracks and assure ongoing communication of status to the employer.

Drug Testing

In addition to providing care for injured workers, a great occupational medicine program will also offer drug testing services. Drug testing can be used to help employers identify employees who are abusing drugs or alcohol, and it can also be used to ensure that employees are complying with the company’s drug and alcohol policy.

Employers often require pre-employment drug tests as well as random drug tests throughout the year. They may also want to test employees who have been involved in an accident or who seem to be struggling with addiction.

Your occupational medicine practice should be able to accommodate drug testing all hours of operation on a walk in or very short term notification basis, with appropriately trained staff (DOT collector certified) on duty at all times.

These should be “fast tracked” as a physician visit is not required.

Negative results should be immediately available and reported to the employer if using a rapid testing device, or by the next day.

“Non-negative” results should be MRO reviewed and reported back within 48 hours.

Employment-Related Examinations

Beyond basic prehire fit for duty examinations, a great occupational medicine program will offer DOT and OSHA regulated exams such as respirator clearance, asbestos, silicosis, hazmat/hazwoper exams, and specialized exams for police & firefighters.

Prehire strength and agility testing can be particularly helpful to healthcare, constructive, manufacturing and other physically demanding jobs in order to avoid “hiring the claim” by having workers not physically able to perform the required tasks of the job.

Prevention, Education and Coaching

A great occupational medicine program should also offer preventive services in a “Total Person Health” concept such as screenings for cancer or other diseases common in the workplace, as well as education on how to stay safe while working.

Using tools like the “Corporate Health Profile” the practice can assess a company’s health care costs and risks, then “co-design” appropriate intervention strategies with the employer including education, onsite clinic services and coaching for chronic conditions.

During the Covid pandemic, the practice should be offering testing of non-vaccinated employees as recommended by OSHA and other authorities, and solutions for the employer to track who has been vaccinated and who has or has not completed required weekly testing.

One Stop Shop

A great occupational medicine program is a one stop shop for the employer’s health care and safety needs, encompassing all the above and more.

If your program lacks anything mentioned in this blog, contact us and we’ll guide you to the resources to make yours great.

In the meantime, here are some of the best available:

Occmed Startup Package

Onsite Occmed Assessment Package

OccDocOne Best Practices

Covid Immunization and testing tracking and reporting with SnapHealthcare

Is Your Program Great?

Then you should be NAOHP Program Certified.  Or get on the path to greatness by becoming certified.  CLICK HERE to learn more.


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