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COVID-19 continues to be a strong presence in New Hampshire; while we have seen good days and bad days with the number of cases the truth is people are still getting sick and with the onset of flu season on the horizon things aren’t going to be getting any better any time soon. We can blame COVID-19 for almost everything lately; from disruptions in our workplaces, our schools, and services we rely on not to mention its impact on us personally, our family, friends and loved ones. Recently the NHADA Workers Comp Team has noticed its impact on accessing care for work related injuries and occupational health services like drug testing.Several calls came in to us this week with complaints about time frames for getting new hire drug testing and appointments for injured workers. Seeing a bit of a trend with providers we don’t typically see this from prompted a few calls to our contacts at the clinics to “see what was up”. We touched base on the current state and discussed ways to deal with increased wait times.

Urgent care clinics and providers throughout the state are seeing a dramatic increase in the volume of patients they are seeing each day. The main culprit as we know is COVID-19; both the testing for asymptomatic and symptomatic persons as well as their care and treatment. Now we add a couple new factors; its flu season! With flu season first comes flu shots which clinics and providers offer and then that is followed by those presenting with concern of suspected flu vs COVID-19. It's busy now and frankly it's just going to get busier.

So what can we do to avoid the frustration of long wait times and any disruption it may cause on our hiring process and seeking medical care for injured workers? Here are some tips to help us all during this busy time:

Drug Screening

    • Avoid last minute drug screens. If a start date is known; encourage the new hire to get the test done sooner rather than later. This allows if its too busy today; how about another day or time.
    • Be flexible with locations. We have many great providers and partners that offer new hire drug screens. If a location is experiencing a long wait maybe one of their other locations may not be as busy. You can always call the NHADA-WCT team for suggestions on other providers or locations. Sometime a 30 minute drive could save you 2 hours.
    • Consider calling ahead or online check in. Some of our partners and preferred providers can take appointments and some have an online check in process that can hold your spot and save on wait times.

 

Care for work injuries

    • As always in the event of a life threatening injury call 911 and remember emergency rooms are for emergencies and should not be used for acute or minor injury management
    • Remember to always call us before sending the injured worker off for treatment. Even though we may suggest the same place you were going to send them it gives us the opportunity to assist in if that is the best choice for the injury. With the current issue with wait times we can help brainstorm the best way to avoid any delays.
    • Is this an injury that needs prompt care? If so an urgent care may be the best choice. We will be able to assist you in picking the one closest to you but also to offer back up suggestions in the event its found that clinic has a long wait time. Just as with drug screening you may want to consider another location and a short drive may save on wait times.
    • Consider using a clinic that takes appointments.
    • Consider using a clinic that allows you to do online check in
    • Consider telemedicine when appropriate
    • If this injury is a problem that has been going on for sometime allow us to assist in a specialty referral vs urgent care. An example is the injured shoulder that happened a month ago and the injured employee just now wants to seek treatment. We can assist with specialty referrals where office visits can be scheduled.
    • If this is an eye injury consider starting out with an ophthalmologist vs urgent care. We have many great providers in the state that will see same day eye injuries and appointments can be scheduled.

Providers have recognized that the increased volume they are experiencing is not temporary given the current state of the pandemic. These providers do realize and sympathize with the frustration a long wait can cause.

Some we spoke with are activity hiring more staff to deal with the volume and others are strategically planning how best to care for patients during this challenging time. They asked for our patience and encouraged us to be in touch when issues arise with wait times so we can all work on the best solution for getting the employees the services and care they need.

If you run into issues with wait times or need assistance with options, please reach out to our NHADA-WCT Claims team so we can assist you.

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Marta J Silakka RN, BSN, CCM, COHN-S, Nurse Case Manager

As the Nurse Case Manager for the Workers Comp Trust; Marta oversees the medical management of the injured workers claims. She assists in referrals within the managed care network and maintains communication between the injured worker, medical providers, employers, and the claims team. Marta also writes for Drive: NH with a focus on health related issues and case management topics. Outside the office she enjoys cooking and organizing social functions for her friends and family as well as spending time with her dogs Gracie and Sawyer.

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