Treating injuries from harmful conditions in the workplace was the focus of occupational medicine in its early days, according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).Doctors treated employee injuries at worksite clinics, but there was no focus on prevention. The purpose of treatment at that time was to repair damage but not to address the overall wellness of workers. This is the focus of Atlanta occupational medicine.
The role of doctors who work in of Atlanta occupational medicine is to provide disease prevention as a significant aspect of healthcare. ACOEM reports that approximately 130 million workers in America spend most of their daytime hours at a workplace. To reflect the changing awareness of health needs, physicians in occupational medicine are trained to enhance worker health through preventive care, disability management and research.
Role of Medicine in the Workplace
Occupational physicians are at the center of health-related activities in today’s workplace, serving as liaison that links employee, employer and governmental concerns to overall health care management. Some tasks associated with the increased role of occupational medicine include these:
Assess an employee’s ability to perform a job
Evaluate dangers of exposure to chemicals and the potential outcomes
Use preventive medicine to improve employee health
Recommend time at which injured workers can return to work
Advocate for good working conditions with management, human resource departments, government offices such as worker’s compensation, unions and public health institutions
Typical Duties on the Job
Conditions that a doctor in occupational medicine may evaluate often include breathing problems. A diagnosis of asthma and asbestosis as well as allergic hypersensitivity leads to treatment to alleviate symptoms. Other conditions that are frequently detected include these:
Neck and shoulder injuries, sprains and tendonitis
Neurological problems such as parkinsonism and hearing loss
Muscular disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome
Exposure to harmful fumes from pesticides or other substances
High-risk occupations frequently require screening programs that can monitor workplace safety. Meeting federal specifications for workers who are exposed to hazardous waste or asbestos involves compliance examinations and evaluation of respiratory equipment. Physicians are also called on to provide educational presentations to keep workers and management apprised of hazards in the workplace and to recommend needed improvements. Making impartial diagnoses of worker’s conditions detects the presence of conditions that represent threats to personal safety and health.
Occupational medicine offers areas of specialization that include these among others:
Fitness for work
Health and productivity
Public health and disease prevention
Administration and management
Identification and control of hazardous conditions
Compliance with regulations and laws
Rising Expectations for Health Care
As workplaces achieve higher levels of complexity, specialists in occupational medicine assume more visible roles in disease prevention and promotion of wellness. ACOEM regards the evaluation of interactions of health and work as the most important role of an organizational physician. To fill the important role assigned to them, physicians must have a general knowledge of conditions at a worksite and potential hazards. The ability to diagnose and treat injuries and diseases that occur at the workplace is essential, and knowledge of appropriate rehabilitation gives patients the opportunity to achieve positive outcomes. Management and delivery of quality healthcare services are the goal of occupational medicine.
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In recent decades, occupational medicine services has come to be treated as a stand-alone medical discipline as experts have realized that injuries and illnesses caused by an individual’s working conditions often require specialized care and treatment.
There are several factors that an employer should consider when selecting an occupational medicine practice to serve employees.
One obvious feature that every business client should look for in an occupational medical provider is a professional, competent team trained to provide a range of occupational medical services. Occupational medicine is becoming increasingly specialized and professionals offering care in this field should be up-to-date on the most current treatment practices and technologies. Knowledge of governmental regulations regarding occupational medicine services and occupational safety, as well as familiarity with private and public insurance systems, is also important. Use of urgent care or multi-specialty practices has proven NOT to be ideal in producing efficient outcomes.
Reasons for Care
Before choosing a medical practice, an employer should examine the reasons that the company uses occupational medicine. Some employers only require certain services, such as pre-employment and on-the-job drug testing, while other companies employ people to work in dangerous conditions that frequently lead to workplace injuries. Employers whose workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals require a medical practitioner equipped to provide comprehensive physical examinations and extensive laboratory analysis of blood, hair and other tissues. Some employers require a range of occupational medical services, making it important for these employers to find an occupational medicine practice that offers many different services under one roof.
Convenient Locations and Operating Hours
Finding an occupational medicine provider near a company’s place of business makes receiving medical care convenient for both the employer and the employee. Every minute an employee spends waiting in a doctor’s office is time away from work or time not spent recuperating at home. Practices that accept walk-in patients as well as appointments also add convenience because being injured on the job cannot be predicted. Quality occupational medicine practices will offer 24-hour access via phone to provide medical advice in the event a work injury occurs outside of the normal nine-to-five workday.
In addition to providing pre-employment health services and care for injured workers, occupational medicine specialists may also be available to also consult with human resources personnel and workplace safety coordinators to enhance overall workplace safety and promote worker health. Health and wellness fairs may also be offered to larger employers to promote general employee health and provide services such as flu shots and other immunizations.
For many employers, establishing a working relationship with a local occupational medicine practitioner is the best way to provide convenient, high-quality care to employees. Taking the time to find the right care provider can ensure that employees remain happy with their employer and enjoy good health even in the most challenging work environments.
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For as long as work existed, the health of workers has been a primary goal of employers throughout the world.
It has always been known that healthy workers are the most productive, and firms have focused on optimizing their employment conditions to maximize the health of their workers and to lower their exposure to any liability as a result of health damages that may have occurred on site. The dawn of the modern era has made working conditions a primary concern for employees, as regulations have imposed high fines for companies that neglect these legal rulings. For workers, this has been beneficial, as a focus on healthcare and industrial medicine has increased the overall working conditions and individual health throughout all industries.
Benefits of Industrial Medicine
Industrial medicine evolved as a branch-off from the Industrial Revolution, as the impact of employee health became a significant influence of the bottom line of corporations. Low employee health became a drain on business expenses, as it would cause significant employee turnover and absenteeism. This, combined with the increased regulatory pressures by governments to ensure the safety of their workers, motivated employers to improve conditions. The spread of insurance liability for companies also influenced working conditions, as employers who could maintain low levels of injury among their employees would have significantly lower costs.
As such, industrial medicine is a branch of clinical medicine that is primarily focused on occupational health. This branch specializes in ensuring high standards of safety and health for employees through the use of preventative medicine and management of already existing diseases. Furthermore, properly maintained work environments have demonstrated that if employees are healthy, they are much less likely to injure themselves and other employees, as well as prevent errors on the job that could cost the company. Essentially, the work of industrial medicine is to ensure that the working environment does not damage the health of the individual and to ensure that all employees work at the maximum capacity possible under their health.
Role in Policy Making
Industrial medicine continues to be highly influential in regulation and law creation involving the workforce, as the specialized knowledge of this branch ensures that any government action does not undermine employee health. In the long run, it is in the best interest of all parties involved to maintain a healthy work environment, as the links between working conditions and health care premiums become intertwined. Employers that are able to ensure the health of their workers will face less drain on their health insurance plans in comparison to other companies, which serves as a competitive advantage in a cutthroat marketplace.
Ultimately, industrial medicine has proven vastly beneficial to workers, as it has increased working conditions and individual health throughout major industries in the United States and other developing countries. By following industry regulations that seek to improve safety and health standards, industries are able to save money and lower employment turnover. This benefits employers, as lower turnover allows employers to retain higher skilled employees without the need for retraining staff. Industrial medicine has improved business productivity and has reformed business protocols in such a way as to maximize employee health. By benefiting both parties, employees have garnered great advantages through the advent of industrial medicine.
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