A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sustained an injury while performing some work on his property. My friend had never had an injury of this nature before and was unsure about his next steps. He ended up seeking care at an urgent care center, which led to a specialist for further workup. Imaging was ordered, and then he was referred to begin physical therapy.
When he asked me if I would be willing to help him with some formal therapy, I inquired about his pathway to me. His retelling of the events caused me to reflect on the pitfalls of the traditional pathway for injury mitigation, which in turn inspired this article.
For most, identifying injuries and classifying them by severity is not common practice. So, we go to see a doctor, delegating the important decision making that leads to wellbeing to those with medical expertise. This traditional process usually involves broad-based primary care facilities, such as urgent care centers and emergency rooms. And though urgency is their draw, these care facilities are often some of the least effective pathways towards injury mitigation—but, the story doesn’t have to end there.
I’ll be identifying the pitfalls of our traditional methods and discussing alternative solutions in hopes that through education, more effective approaches to injury mitigation will continue to surface.
The Corporate Approach to Injury Mitigation
The safety strategies of most companies are in place as a preventative measure, aimed at avoiding injury occurrence. While effective in some efforts, most strategies fail to prevent all injuries from taking place.
As we aim to identify areas that need improvement, it’s important to know that these corporate safety strategies are deployed by individuals with safety training, not medical diagnosis and treatment expertise. Therefore, these strategies follow a similar pathway as my friend; electing to utilize urgent care or emergency rooms for initial injury mitigation. The more I reflect on my friend’s experience, the more convinced I am that there is a much better pathway for the vast majority of our ailments—especially the ones acquired in the workplace.
As promised, I want to suggest more effective solutions to the pitfalls of traditional injury mitigation. I believe it boils down to two simple questions:
What constitutes the majority of the injuries that need addressing?” and,
“Who is the best specialist to address the majority of the injuries?”.
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The Pitfalls of the Traditional Pathway of Injury Mitigation (+ How We Can Address Them).
1. A Generalist is not a Specialist.
As I mentioned, this friend of mine sought out an urgent care center after his injury. While I commend him for going to get help in the first place, I hold a fundamental issue with the urgent care and emergency room systems. The reason being, urgent care centers and emergency rooms are filled with generalists.
Generalists must be able to see and effectively care for just about anything that arrives—that means cold and flu symptoms, mental illness, kidney stones, heart attacks, and the like. Needless to say, while great at a wide range of issues, these professionals are typically not experts in any one specific area. This leads to an approach of triage and referral to an appropriate specialist. Doesn’t it make more sense to skip this step and get to the specialist earlier?
A Better Approach: Access to the specialist at the first visit.
In 2019, the World Health Organization released some startling data.
“ Musculoskeletal conditions were the leading cause of disability in the world, with 1 in 2 people in the United States living with a musculoskeletal condition. ”
Low back pain has been the most prevalent MSK worldwide since 1990. Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions make up a large portion of urgent care and emergency room visits— whether work-related or non-work related. So, It would seem more effective to route non-emergent MSK conditions to MSK specialists first. The question is, “Who is the expert on MSK?”.
There are many medical providers to choose from but, the most trained MSK specialists are Physical Therapists. Their unique ability to evaluate and treat MSK is unmatched by most healthcare providers. The same data that shows MSK has a significant impact on our society also affirms deploying the skills of a physical therapist to create an entry point into the healthcare system.
2. The cost of care is often way too high.
It goes without saying that urgent care centers and emergency rooms are costly. Some of the highest rates of cost per incident are associated with these provider locations. They are designed to rule out the most dangerous outcomes and work down the severity chain. Why then is the first step the most costly one?
A Better Approach: A lower-cost healthcare expert.
When comparing the costs associated with urgent care and emergency room visits to the average cost of care administered by a physical therapist, the numbers speak for themselves. Leveraging the expertise of the physical therapist as a primary care provider for non-emergent MSK is the financially prudent response. When the vast majority of MSK can be managed effectively by a lower-cost healthcare expert, it begs the question, “Why do we continue to utilize an over-expensive general provider?”.
3. There’s always a bottleneck.
Perhaps the most detrimental of all, this traditional pathway leads to long wait times before actually being treated by the appropriate provider. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, the United States will have a shortage of upwards of 50,000 primary care physicians by 2033. This traditional pathway of utilizing generalist primary care physicians for injury mitigation creates more stress on these types of providers, and a backlog of avoidable appointments and costly wait times. The question remains, “Who is the appropriate healthcare provider?”.
A Better Approach: Appropriate entry points.
If we are expecting a shortage of primary care physicians and the traditional pathway of injury mitigation utilizes these individuals as the entry point into the healthcare system, won’t we see these pitfalls grow ever deeper as we move forward? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. My suggestion is that we find more appropriate entry points that leverage the expertise of the healthcare providers that specialize in MSK conditions.
The Physical Therapist & Your Company
I believe there is a better way to mitigate workplace injuries. MSK specialists are often more accessible and more cost-effective. Physical therapists are the best option for individuals and their employers to integrate into their strategy for injury mitigation. Their ability to triage, evaluate, and treat MSK can lower wait times, reduce unnecessary and costly expenses, reduce unwarranted recordable work injuries, and provide you with peace of mind as you navigate the murky waters of injury mitigation.
As for my friend, he has decided to call me anytime he has an MSK that needs addressing and I invite you to do the same.
We created Therady to change the traditional pathway of injury mitigation. We have placed a new entry point into the healthcare system that is faster, more efficient, and reduces costs. If you would like to know how your company can personally benefit from implementing physical therapists into your new pathway towards injury mitigation, schedule your assessment today.