Independent medical evaluations (IMEs) are widely—and often, inappropriately—used in the claims management process. An IME includes a review of all pertinent medical records; an interview (history) and physical examination; a review of laboratory results and test results; and an edited and signed written report. The primary value of an IME is the report, because a credible medical opinion obtained at the right time can provide information necessary to initiate appropriate action in claims management, both for insurers, who will have a solid basis for acceptance or denial of a claim, and for claimant attorneys, who may use the evaluation to gain acceptance of a claim. A list of common problems in IMEs shows issues about which evaluators should be particularly careful, including questions of use, timing, choice of examiner, adequacy of questions asked and information received, expectations not defined, and framing the evaluation in a negative manner. From a client perspective, IMEs can be improved in several ways, and physicians should understand these opportunities for improving the quality, effectiveness, and value of evaluations. Because referral letters sometimes fail to ask detailed, focused, and probing questions, examiners who have any doubt about the conduct or objectives of the IME should contact the referral source. Detailed checklists and specifications can help ensure completeness and compliance. The article includes a box with definitions of frequently used IME terminology.

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