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Steven Feinberg

Abstract

The treatment of chronic pain conditions is difficult, time consuming, expensive, and, all too often, unsuccessful. An effective alternative is chronic pain rehabilitation or functional restoration (FR). An FR team works together to help patients achieve better outcomes with reduced disability. The basic treatment goals of early and chronic FR rehabilitation programs are functional improvement; improved abilities in performance of activities of daily living (ADL); a return to leisure, sport, and vocational activities; and improved pharmacologic management of pain and related affective distress. Individuals at risk of developing chronic pain conditions may benefit from an FR program because physical and psychological interventions can be used before the disability becomes chronic. FR programs emphasize a multidisciplinary, biopsychosocial approach in which physicians, psychologists, and occupational, physical, and relaxation therapists work in concert. FR treatment includes quantification of physical deficits, psychosocial and socioeconomic assessment, and an emphasis on reconditioning the injured area or body part. The team-centered approach includes simulation of work or activity; disability management using cognitive–behavioral approaches; psychopharmacologic management that focuses on improving analgesia, sleep, and affective distress; and, in appropriate cases, detoxification. FR is a patient-centered, whole-person, team approach that focuses on helping patients achieve individual goals that enable them to improve physical and psychosocial function, decrease pain, lessen disability, and improve quality of life, including return to work.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Steven D. Feinberg

Abstract

Many states have benefit programs (e.g., special fund, second injury fund, subsequent injuries fund, special disabilities trust fund) for people with significant pre-existing impairment and/or disability who are injured. Each fund has different rules and regulations. Some of these funds provide benefits to the injured worker, while others reimburse eligible employers and insurers. Physicians need to understand the specific requirements of benefit programs in their states. Evaluating physicians who understand the uniqueness of these programs will be better able to provide valuable services. This article provides insights into one such program, the subsequent injuries benefits trust fund (SIBTF) in California. To be eligible for SIBTF benefits, the injured worker must meet an “overall threshold” and an “industrial threshold” of disability to qualify for benefits. If these thresholds are met, the injured worker may receive additional compensation based on pre-existing (labor-disabling) disability. The pre-existing disabilities can arise from any source, including congenital, developmental, or acquired disease, prior injury, war injury, non- industrial injuries, or prior industrial disabilities.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Steven D. Feinberg

Abstract

This article describes special aspects of addressing and defining substantial medical evidence, causation, and apportionment in the California Workers' Compensation system. Substantial medical evidence is framed in terms of reasonable medical probability, and the opinion must be based on fact and not be speculative. The issue of whether the injury occurred in the course of employment is left to the Trier of Fact (WCAB judge). The issue of arising out of employment is a medical issue left to the physician. Apportionment applies to both the industrial and nonindustrial cause of the disability.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Steven Feinberg
and
Christopher R. Brigham

Abstract

An independent medical evaluation (IME) is a specialized examination or evaluation best performed by a physician who has special training and experience in assessing issues unique to an IME. IMEs must be independent, and opinions should be consistent and impartial and based on evidence-based medicine. An IME includes the essential elements of a medical assessment, including a history, a physical examination (usually), and review of records and studies, followed by clinical impressions or diagnoses, and then by recommendations. The medical assessment may include other practitioners, eg, psychologists and chiropractors. Depending on the referral request, the IME typically discusses disability (the definition depends on the local jurisdiction) based on deficits in the person's activities of daily living. In the IME, the evaluator may be asked to consider claims issues that include causation, apportionment, impairment, work ability, appropriateness, and costs of medical care and/or future needs. The physician who performs the examination does not provide care to the individual and provides medical opinions about issues associated with the case. Impartiality, objectivity, and an understanding of medicolegal issues are required of the evaluator. IME reports are not confidential and likely will be read by many stakeholders in a claim. Accordingly, nonmedical personnel should find it easy to read and understand the IME.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Steven D. Feinberg
and
Christopher R. Brigham

Abstract

Who is in the better position to evaluate, the treating physician or an independent medical examination (IME) physician? A treating physician has a patient-advocate role because he or she has a doctor-patient relationship with the patient/claimant. Unlike the treating physician, an IME physician does not have a doctor-patient relationship, and can, therefore, provide an impartial evaluation necessary to assess the extent to which the patient/claimant is impaired or disabled from functional activities of daily living.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Steven Feinberg
,
Kenneth Kingdon
, and
Robert Rassp

Abstract

Over the past thirteen years, physicians have experienced a learning curve regarding how to use the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides) with a “California flavor.” Physicians are mandated by law to provide the court with the “most accurate” ratings that apply in a given case based on permanent objective medical evidence and the education, skills, knowledge, and experience of the physician. Two cases, commonly known as Almaraz–Guzman, profoundly changed how California interprets and uses the AMA Guides, Fifth Edition. Under Almaraz–Guzman, the evaluating physician is tasked with first providing a whole person impairment using a “standard” AMA Guides impairment rating. If the physician believes that this rating “is not the most accurate” and does not adequately reflect the extend of the disability, an alternative rating “within the four corners” of the AMA Guides can be provided based on “reasonable medical probability.” In many cases, this has resulted in the use of tables, charts, methods, measurements, and descriptions from chapters and text materials that were not originally intended to apply to other parts of the body. The AMA Guides tells us that when there is no clear impairment rating, rating by analogy or use of other impairments that create a similar effect on ADLs should be considered, and the opinion must reach the level of substantial evidence.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Steven D. Feinberg
,
Charles N. Brooks
, and
Christopher R. Brigham

Abstract

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is characterized by chronic spontaneous and/or evoked regional pain disproportionate in severity, distribution, and/or duration to that typically experienced after a similar injury or illness. The pain may also begin without a known precipitant. While various authors have questioned the validity of the diagnosis, physicians will be asked to perform impairment ratings on patients diagnosed with CRPS. Hence, it is important to understand the issues associated with this syndrome; the diagnostic criteria for it, including the need to rule out other diagnoses that may explain the patient's presentation; and how to rate CRPS. The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Fifth Edition, provides approaches to assessing CRPS impairment that are refined in the Sixth Edition.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Steven D. Feinberg
,
Christopher R. Brigham
, and
Lee Ensalada

Abstract

Assessing impairment and/or disability in the pain patient often is difficult due to both administrative and clinical issues; in addition, the terms impairment and disability are misunderstood. Chronic pain complaints may be associated with significant disability, but typically the physician defines clinical issues, functional deficits, and, when requested, impairment; disability most often is an administrative determination. The biopsychosocial approach currently is viewed as most appropriate perspective for understanding, assessing, and treating chronic pain disorders and acknowledges a complex and dynamic interaction among biological, psychological, and social factors. The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Sixth Edition, discusses the assessment of pain and eligibility requirements for pain-related impairment (PRI). Some physicians feel that the AMA Guides’ approach to PRI does not adequately address the “disability” and functional loss caused by some chronic pain states, but the AMA Guides is limited, mostly, to describing measurable objective changes or impairment. The AMA Guides is not intended to be used for direct estimates of loss of work capacity (disability), and impairment percentages derived according to the AMA Guides criteria do not measure work disability. Impairment ratings in the AMA Guides already have accounted for impairment-associated pain, including that experienced in areas distant to the specific site of pathology.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter