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Charl Els
,
Barry Gelinas
,
Rose M. Carter
, and
Les Kertay

Abstract

Independent medical examinations (IMEs) are elective evaluations of clinical conditions and differ from a clinical consultation in several important ways. They are conducted in many medicolegal contexts and are performed by a regulated health professional who is not the treating health care provider. An IME seeks objective information about the examinee's diagnoses, functional abilities and impairments, and other features relevant to addressing medicolegal-related cases by relying on multiple data sources. Best practice guidelines have been established for the completion of physical IMEs. However, similar mental and behavioral disorder (M&BD) standards are less common, and M&BD IMEs often do not follow a consistent process. This article offers guidance on applying and adapting existing standards to M&BD IMEs. We outlined the appropriate use of psychiatric nomenclature and how to apply recent changes to Chapter 14 of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. The article further offers a mechanism for introducing greater objectivity into an otherwise subjective process by employing relevant psychological validity testing and conducting a coherence analysis in formulating an opinion. In summary, we provide a synopsis of current best practices and offer the examiner a method for aligning M&BD IMEs with equally high standards of excellence.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Christopher R. Brigham
,
Helene Fearon
,
Steven Feinberg
,
Barry Gelinas
,
David Langham
, and
J. Mark Melhorn

Abstract

Virtual independent medical evaluations (IMEs) have become and are likely to remain common even after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic ends, but virtual health care and virtual examinations are not simply a matter of moving to a new platform—rather, they require a transformation that affects all stakeholders. Innovative solutions necessitated by virtual IMEs potentially can improve both quality and efficiency. The American Medical Association (AMA) defines telemedicine as health-related services that are synchronous and asynchronous and include a variety of tools and platforms that allow clinicians to connect with one another and patients (a box provides information about AMA's ongoing telehealth initiative). Physicians who plan to perform virtual evaluations must have the appropriate policies, procedures, and security in place; resources are available from the AMA Guides series of publications. Each component of the virtual IME, including each data element, should be assessed to determine best practices and how to use virtual technologies successfully. The credibility of virtual IMEs may hinge on the examiner's ability to explain both what was done and why it was as efficacious as an in-person alternative or perhaps as useful as any other alternative under the circumstances. One challenge is to master the tools used in virtual IMEs and another is to obtain stakeholders' acceptance of the virtual process, but this will come with time, experience, and effective physician performance.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter