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Occupational Health vs ER vs Urgent Care

Posted 12/14/2017 by UHBlog

Good health is good for business. Talk to us about how an occupational health program can support your company's efforts to prevent work-related illnesses and injuries.

Physician clasping patient's hands

When it comes to controlling costs, saving time, and maintaining productivity in your company, occupational health makes the most sense. According to the World Health Organization, occupational health is a specialized branch of medicine that focuses on the physical and mental well-being of employees in the workplace, and aims to prevent hazards that can lead to work-related illnesses and injuries.

Yet, some employers think that using the emergency room or an urgent care facility on an as-needed basis for work-related injuries and testing is better for their situation. In fact, choosing either of those options is likely to cost you more time and money, says occupational medicine specialist Mundeep Chaudhry, MD.

“Occupational health works with businesses to keep employees safe at work – or to get them safely back to work as quickly as possible,” Dr. Chaudhry says. “If you use an occupational health specialist – either onsite or at a clinic – on a regular basis, you develop a rapport that can lead to cost-savings for businesses.”

For instance, occupational health can:

  • Provide a one-stop shop for work-related testing, including pre-employment, hearing, urinalysis and other exams
  • Make it convenient and accessible for employees to get their influenza vaccine
  • Ensure follow-up care is given to injured employees so they stay on course with their return-to-work programs

There are other reasons why occupational health is better for businesses than an ER or urgent care facility, including:

  • Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recordable injuries. If your company is required by OSHA to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses, an ER or urgent care may not know what falls under OSHA guidelines. This could impact what your company reports.
  • Treatment options. “Due to the large volumes they see, ERs and urgent cares are designed to 'treat 'em and street 'em,'” Dr. Chaudhry says. “They aren't going to follow up with the employee. Occupational health always follows up. We're set up to coordinate care if the employee needs to see a specialist. We continue to work with employees until the injury has resolved and they're back on the job.”
  • Drug screenings. If a person is injured at work, the standard operating procedure at many companies is to do a drug screening on the employee. According to Dr. Chaudhry, this is often missed at ERs because of how busy they are.
  • Less time off work. Occupational health tries to keep the employee as productive as possible, so that there is less impact on other people in your company.
    “If an employee is hurt and says, 'I want a few days off,' we're not going to do that,” he says. “We rarely give time off work. We like to keep people productive. If they are unable to do their regular work due to the injury, we will give them restrictions that allow the injury to heal, but keeps the employee productive in some modified work.”
    Additionally, occupational health is less likely to give a mildly injured employee prescription drugs.
  • Part of an effective employee safety and health program. An occupational health program takes into account all aspects of the work environment, like workplace stress and environmental hazards that can impact your employees.
    “Occupational health works with your business beyond safety to support other areas of employee health,” Dr. Chaudhry says. “For instance, we'll do a walk-through of the employer's site and make suggestions about how the job can be done more ergonomically.”

To learn more about University Hospitals' occupational health and safety services, connect with University Hospitals Employer Solutions for more information.

Mundeep Chaudhry, MD is an occupational medicine specialist for University Hospitals Occupational Health. You can request an appointment with Dr. Chaudhry or any other doctor online.

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