Medical providers are a critical partner when implementing workplace accommodations for an employee’s return-to-work or stay-at-work plan. They have first-hand knowledge of an employee’s medical condition and can provide details about any limitations and restrictions that need to be put in place to enable that person to return to work.
Typically, medical providers share this information in a written format but, sometimes, the information can be unclear or lacks critical details to inform the best solution for the employee. So now what do you do?
If you’re managing this without assistance from your disability carrier, don’t be afraid to go back to the medical provider to ask for a few more details. The best way to gather extra information is to explain why you’re asking. It may help to give the physician more insight into the employee’s work situation and discuss that the ultimate end-goal is helping him or her return to or stay at work.
Prepare for the conversation ahead of time to ensure you make the most of the time you have with the medical provider and to keep the conversation focused on the employee’s restrictions and limitations, not the medical condition, diagnosis or other details.
Explain the job duties and work environment
A physician may not understand the ins and outs of the employee’s tasks or the setup of the workplace, and therefore, his or her recommendation may just skim the surface of what’s needed. By detailing these things to him or her, you can better collaborate to find an optimal solution. Better yet, provide a job description to the physician that contains the requirements of the position and the main job responsibilities.
Discuss possible solutions
A busy physician may not have the knowledge or expertise in vocational rehabilitation, or background on your company’s policies or procedures to know what options may be available from a work schedule, alternative work duty or ergonomic equipment perspective. Use your conversation with the medical provider to present your ideas and options for possible accommodations. This proactive conversation also can underscore your desire to have the employee return to or stay at work.
Get better information upfront
To obtain the best possible information when you initially reach out to a medical provider, be sure that you are requesting information specifically about limitations and restrictions required for the employee to return to work. The more specific you are with your request will lead to receiving better information.
Reach out to your disability carrier
If you have the resource available to you, a consultant from your disability carrier also can help.
Your carrier may have a consultant who knows how to ask the kind of pointed questions that result in the best answers from busy medical providers. Plus, because many consultants either have years of accommodations experience or backgrounds in areas such as nursing and ergonomics, they understand medical terminology and can interpret what that means for the employee and their accommodation.
By partnering more with the medical provider, you can work together with the employee to determine the best plan for healing and returning to work.