Definition and Overview
Occupational medicine consultation is an appointment with an occupational health specialist, which could be a physical or occupational therapist, nurse, an orthopedic, chiropractic or an ergonomist.
Occupational medicine is specialty under clinical medicine and focuses on identifying, managing and treating conditions that affect workers. Its goals are to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses, as well as treat and manage these conditions to help restore body function, help the patient cope with the injury or disability and minimise further occurrence in the workplace.
Despite the measures being taken to keep employees safe while in the workplace, research shows that there are at least 3 million workers (or 3.2 for every 100 full-time workers) who still experience non-fatal injuries and conditions.
Some of the most common causes of these injuries include falling from a certain height, slipping and having one of the body parts, such as the arms, being caught by equipment. One of the main concerns, on the other hand, is the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, which develops due to the overexertion of a certain body part or repetitive use. MSDs are responsible for more than 30% of missed workdays reported in 2014. They affect one in every two workers between the ages of 18 and above, but they are more common among older people or 65 years old and above.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Occupational medicine consultation is performed:
Among high-risk groups – All types of work have a certain level of occupational risk, but injuries and other conditions are more commonly found in the manufacturing, healthcare and transport industries. Other people who may belong to this group include:
- Older people or those who are at least 65 years old
- Those with a preexisting disease or condition such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and hypertension
- Individuals who have experienced issues with the musculoskeletal system such as arthritis or fracture
- Workers who have to perform repetitive motions as part of their jobs
- Employees who spend many hours on the desk as this increases the likelihood of back pain and possibility of obesity due to a sedentary lifestyle
People who are undergoing treatment –The consultation is also applicable to workers who have been diagnosed with a work-related injury and condition and now are now being treated for it. The objective is to help the patient regain full function of the affected body part. If the injury or condition has led to a disability, which can be partial or full or temporary or permanent, the specialist is expected to assist the patient increase mobility, flexibility and productivity.
Companies – Private employers these days are now investing in getting the professional services of occupational medicine experts as a way of reducing direct and indirect costs attributed to work-related injuries and conditions, including absenteeism, sick days and compromised productivity and efficiency.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Occupational medicine consultation is carried out by a group of health care professionals. Companies that wish to minimise or prevent injuries and conditions in the workplace may reach out to a licensed ergonomist whose job is to perform risk assessment, recommend ergonomic solutions based on the result of the assessment and help the company create proposals or guides that promote safety, productivity and efficiency in the workplace.
Health experts may also be called in to:
- Assist the human resource department in creating health and wellness programs for the employees
- Evaluate the overall health and fitness of employees
- Diagnose, treat and manage work-related injuries and diseases
- Help the company meet the requirements and standards set up by federal and state agencies that protect workers
Workers who may be believed to be sick or injured are referred to a health care professional such as an orthopedic or internist, depending on the suspected condition. The consultative process is similar to other types of conditions even if they are not work related.
Depending on the diagnosis, the patient may undergo physical, occupational or psychotherapy or take medications.
Possible Risks and Complications
Despite the importance of occupational medicine, many companies and workers may only take it for granted for a lack of accurate understanding of its benefits. This may mean that these groups may not follow the recommendations provided during the consultation, or they may become inconsistent in implementing proposals and changes, as well as updating them when necessary.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Stress...At Work. Updated June 6, 2014. www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101