Why Injured Employees Should Avoid the ER – Duncan Financial Group
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Why Injured Employees Should Avoid the ER

Senior businessman suffering from back injury inside office lobby

Why Injured Employees Should Avoid the ER

While an emergency room is the best source for immediate care of life-threatening injuries, too many injured employees receive initial treatment for their injuries there. Outside of an injury that requires emergency transport, the most common reason for employees seeking treatment in the ER is that the injury occurred outside the operating hours of the physicians the employer has selected to treat their injured employees. Of course, if the employer doesn’t have a designated physician and just leaves the injured employee to go to the doc of their choosing, they’ll often wind up in the ER as well.

Although the ER may seem like a quick and easy fix in these circumstances, it is the worst place to get treatment for an employee injury (unless emergency medical care is required, of course). A far less costly and more effective way to avoid after-hours ER visits is to utilize a nurse triage service. More and more carriers are offering 24-hour triage as part of their policy offerings or you can partner with a triage service directly. Nurses who are trained to assess occupational injuries use protocols and guidelines to evaluate the injured employee’s medical needs and determine the most appropriate care.

Why is the ER the worst place to get treatment for an employee injury?

    1. The ER is almost always the most expensive place to receive treatment. There are expensive hospital facility fees and exorbitant markups in emergency medical care. An emergency room visit costs $2,200 on average for common conditions that could be remedied through much less expensive options, according to UnitedHealthcare.
    2. Wait times are excessive. Your place in line is not determined by when you arrived, rather it is determined by how severe your situation is relative to the others in the ER with you, often leading to excruciating wait times. Nurse triage is available immediately, 24/7 and it means quicker claim reporting.
    3. Because of the pace of an ER, the doc is extremely unlikely to be interested in discussing restrictions or Recovery-at-Work options. Their role is to stabilize the injury and move on to the next patient. In many cases, the injured worker will be told to rest and take days or even weeks off from work. Or they refer the injured worker to a specialist, which could mean further delays in treatment. Further, no one goes to the ER for follow-up appointments, so the injured employee will have to reestablish care with another physician if they require follow-ups. Frustration and a disability mindset begin to build in the worker.

On the other hand, if treatment begins with nurse triage, they will prescribe treatment plans that are going to return your employee to work as soon as possible. They’ll also help manage the workers’ compensation process, which speeds the claim’s resolution and instills confidence in workers, giving a sense that the company is concerned for their well-being.

A personal experience

A few weeks ago, we had a personal experience that reinforced how strenuously we recommend against sending an injured employee to the ER if it’s not required. Our son, who is a Junior in High School, broke his thumb in a baseball game. When the injury occurred, it looked like a relatively simple dislocation, but when it was put back in place, it wouldn’t stick. Both the team trainer and a close friend who works in orthopedics recommended that we take him to the ER to get it stabilized until he could see an ortho to get a diagnosis and treatment plan.

We arrived at the ER around 9 p.m. He was quickly checked in and put through the triage process where they took his blood pressure, asked what happened, and inquired about his pain level. He got an X-ray of his hand, saw the doctor, had a better splint installed on the hand to immobilize the thumb, and a second X-ray to make sure things were in place in the splint.

We left the ER at 2:30 a.m. Five and a half hours after we arrived, and after having received what I would generously estimate as 30 minutes of medical care, we headed home. While we were there, several people who came in after us were seen. After the splint was replaced, the doctor got called away for an emergency in a different part of the hospital when she planned to come right back to get us on our way.

Were we upset? Of course not. Obviously, the people with issues that require immediate attention need to jump to the head of the line.

It did make me think about what a similar experience would be like for an injured worker with an even less serious injury. Likely sitting in the ER waiting room alone, listening to the Weather Channel talk on a loop about severe weather in some part of the country. Does that employee know that their employer is going to pay the (likely large) bill they are about to incur? Do they understand how and when they will receive lost wage benefits if they can’t go back to work immediately?

Those and so many other questions that trigger fear and uncertainty are probably swirling through that injured employee’s head.

Of course, making sure that injured employees don’t wind up in the ER unnecessarily is just one step in avoiding these issues, but it goes a long way. You can educate your workers about how workers’ comp works BEFORE an injury occurs. Of course, having a designated physician or panel of physicians to send injured employees to is a critical piece.

As for the boy, he had surgery on his thumb. He’ll likely be out of action for a couple of months but will recover and be stronger than ever. Playing catcher brings an increased probability of emergency room visits, but I hope to not have that experience again any time soon!

For more information about the best financial solutions for injured employees, schedule an appointment with one of our financial professionals today.