Occupational medicine is one of those things most of us have heard about. We see the term on websites, flyers and even on TV — yet many people don’t have a clear idea of what occupational medicine actually is, what it means, and how it affects the average American worker.
The definition is simple enough:
Occupational medicine is a branch of medicine that prevents and treats health problems that are “occupational” in nature. These health problems can be injuries, illnesses or even diseases related to the workplace. As long as a health problem is related to or caused by the workplace, it falls under the umbrella of occupation medicine.
People are often confused by the difference between occupational medicine and “ordinary” medicine. If you fall and hurt your arm at work, for example, are you supposed to go to a special “occupational” doctor? Why wouldn’t you simply go to any urgent care center or ER for treatment?
In reality, clinics and healthcare providers who specialize in occupational medicine will not necessarily treat injuries any differently than other healthcare providers. However, they will be more knowledgable about Workers Compensation programs, which is hugely important for injured or sick workers. They will also be more attuned to long-term therapy options, preventative treatments, and other measures to keep you healthy in your specific occupation.
Much of occupational medicine revolves around preventing injuries and illnesses, implementing comprehensive workplace safety programs, and drug/alcohol screening to keep the entire workplace safe and accident-free. Clinics and urgent care centers who specialize in occupational medicine work closely with employers and insurance companies to identify and implement “best practices” in terms of workplace health, and to streamline workers compensation cases.
Some of the specific functions of a clinic specializing in occupational medicine include:
- Physical exams, either before or during employment
- Diagnosis and treatment of injuries and illnesses
- Workers compensation coordination
- Specific occupational health exams
- Impairment ratings
- Screening for Drugs and Alcohol
- Testing for cardiac stress
- Testing for lead poisoning and other specific tests
The best outcomes are achieved by expert communication with claims managers, employers, and other medical specialists.
There are certainly aspects of occupational medicine that stay the same, but there are also many forms of treatment and prevention that are specific to various types of work. The treatment and prevention programs, including specific medical tests, implemented by occupational medicine specialists will address health risks that are specific to the workplace in question.
Mental health is also a concern of occupational medicine, as stress and other mental health factors are hugely important in terms of workplace wellness. Often times, psychological problems can follow a physical injury. Getting workers back into excellent shape, both physically and mentally, is one of the central goals of occupational medicine.
Finding a qualified partner in occupational medicine
Employee wellbeing should be at the top of the list for employers today. After all, a healthy workforce is ultimately good for business. Finding a qualified urgent care center or medical organization who specialize in occupational medicine, from prevention to treatment and even legal/financial aspects, is a positive first step for businesses of all sizes.