The MedRisk Blog
This blog is part 3 of a 3-part series titled “Neck Injuries in Workers’ Comp: Managing Pain and Controlling Cost.”
Neck injury can be a complex treatment area for physical medicine clinicians. From headaches to nerve pain, the symptoms of neck injury can be wide-ranging, which can increase the cost of diagnosis and treatment if not managed appropriately.
MedRisk aims to simplify the pathway to recovery for injured workers, including those being treated for neck injury. We sat down with Suzanne Sadusky, PT, DPT, MedRisk’s Manager of Clinical Services, to discuss the journey of a neck injury referral and how MedRisk supports streamlined, cost-effective treatment every step of the way.
As soon as a referral is made, MedRisk gets to work in matching the patient with an appropriate provider based on specialty, location, and availability – within an average of 4 hours. This helps patients be seen for an initial evaluation within 2.6 days of referral. First, the patient may consult with one of MedRisk’s on-staff physical therapists prior to treatment. During this dialogue, the PT can identify things that could impact recovery, such as prior surgeries, existing ailments, and psychosocial factors such as depression or anxiety. Notes from the consult are delivered to stakeholders in a comprehensive report, which allows these insights to be considered in developing an optimal treatment plan. In addition, the PT uses the consultation to educate the patient on the treatment process, set expectations for recovery and encourage patient participation and compliance.
“We try to alleviate any anxiety about starting therapy and answer their questions,” Sadusky said. “We are not the treating therapist and we are not the insurance carrier. We are a third party, which puts us in a unique position.”
As the first company to introduce evidence-based guidelines for managed physical medicine, MedRisk is committed to keeping treatment guidelines up to date. The company’s proprietary guidelines, which are categorized by body part, are assigned to every case that opens at MedRisk, and they help set expectations for the number of visits and the amount of time that is expected for recovery. The guidelines were developed by and are maintained by MedRisk’s International Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB), an elite panel of world-renowned specialists in physical medicine and workers’ compensation who oversee all clinical aspects of MedRisk’s medical management programs. The group meets regularly to review current scientific literature and new treatment protocols and vet MedRisk’s guidelines, which are specific to physical therapy and workers’ compensation.
“The guidelines go a long way in keeping treatment on track. However, there will always be instances when patients do not progress as expected,” Sadusky said. In these cases, Sadusky’s team is called upon to do a clinical review. During this process, the team reviews the case documentation and reaches out to the treating therapist to discuss whether additional therapy is necessary. With these insights in hand, MedRisk is then able to provide recommendations to adjusters on how to optimize treatment moving forward.
Telerehabilitation has become a more standard component of treatment throughout the pandemic, and according to Sadusky, the benefits will hold up well into the future.
“During COVID, it often wasn’t always safe or possible to be in the clinic, and it really showed how telerehab can support continuity of care,” she said. The option of receiving PT services from home can help patients avoid gaps in treatment, maintain steady progress, and control their symptoms in the expected timeframe. In the case of neck injury, patients may receive equipment, including TheraBands, an exercise ball, and weights, with instruction for self-management and advanced strength exercises through a virtual PT appointment. This allows patients to avoid common pitfalls that could have derailed in-person treatment, extended the duration of the claim, and potentially delayed return to work.
What presents as neck pain can often be more complex than meets the eye, as the injury can sometimes involve the shoulder or spine. When treating a clinically complex injury, it’s important that treatment plans are both patient-centered and streamlined. Through MedRisk’s managed physical medicine services – communication with patients and stakeholders, clinical oversight, and telerehabilitation – a more predictable and cost-effective path to recovery can be achieved.
About Suzanne Sadusky, PT, DPT
Suzanne is a licensed physical therapist. She has worked at MedRisk for over 6 years and is currently the Manager of MedRisk’s Clinical Services team. Her team is responsible for performing clinical reviews and providing documented recommendations based on use of appropriate clinical guidelines. Suzanne holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Boston University and a Bachelor’s in Health Studies degree also from Boston University. Prior to joining MedRisk, Suzanne worked in a variety of settings as a physical therapist. These include outpatient orthopedics and workers’ compensation, acute care, and acute inpatient rehabilitation, as well as independent living and skilled nursing facilities. She has also been involved in facilitating online learning through Boston University’s transitional DPT program.
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