The Employment Physical in an ADA World

The employment physical is alive and well, but it’s changed in focus since Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law.

In years past, the “pre-employment physical” was performed with a person’s hiring contingent on passing the exam. While the goals of this practice were good—matching an employee’s physical abilities with the job—it sometimes led to discrimination. Because of this, the pre-employment physical has evolved into the “post-offer physical.”

Despite the change in when the physicals take place, there is still a lot of value to the employer who conducts post-offer physicals. That’s because establishing a baseline physical condition is important in workers’ compensation claims. An employee’s hearing loss, arthritic back or hernia are all able to be documented at the time of a physical examination. Testing such as an audiogram provides an objective measurement of employees’ hearing. This can prevent the fraudulent claim of a pre-existing condition as a new work-related injury. With the cost of an audiogram around $20, you can do a bunch of them and still save money if only one or two injuries are prevented.

Establishing a baseline also helps quantify the severity of an injury. It can be frustrating when an employee’s back injury gets treated longer than seems reasonable. The pre-employment physical can uncover degenerative back disease and determine if the injured employee’s true baseline was morning pain and stiffness. This enables the provider to treat only the aggravation and discharge the employee when he has returned to his true baseline. All too often, the provider seems to be trying to return the employee to a condition he may not have been in 20 or more years ago. This is an imaginary baseline where there is zero back pain and the skies are always sunny.

On a more positive note, the employment physical is an investment in your employee’s health. Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease can be found during this physical. The employee can be directed to get treatment for these types of conditions, preventing a heart attack or stroke in the future. At U.S. HealthWorks, our providers also talk to the employee during the physical about smoking, diet, exercise and other preventive medicine issues. Most of our centers also do urgent care, so the employee can be seen for these health conditions if they desire. We even have a reduced fee for those without insurance or primary care provider.

A relationship is established during the physical between the provider and the employee. This is beneficial if the employee needs treatment for a work-related injury. This is a valuable benefit to both the employer and employee. We make it a priority to get the employee treated as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. A good relationship with the provider gets maximum cooperation with the treatment plans from the employee. This gives the best results for both the injured employee and his/her employer.

It may sound simple, but these physicals also ensure that the employee knows where the clinic is. The excitement caused by a work injury often prevents the giving and following of accurate directions. It helps greatly if the employee has already been to the clinic. Employers have invested time and effort into picking and working with your chosen clinic and doctor. If the patient gets lost, the care will suffer.

The employment physical is a cost-effective means of preventing injuries, making sure injured employees get the right care while also keeping employers fully informed.

Until next time,

Dr. B


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