Set treatment guidelines can streamline delivery of medical care

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By Merilee Dannemann

An important change is about to happen in the New Mexico workers’ compensation system.
Potentially, it could make the system both more cost-effective, and more compassionate to the injured workers who receive medical care under this system.
It’s likely to be quite messy for a while, as medical people and insurers figure out how to work with it. That became clear in vigorous discussions recently at the annual conference of the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Association.
The concept is called treatment guidelines. The use of such guidelines is not unique to workers’ compensation, but the introduction of a particular set of guidelines as a recognized standard is. Here’s what it means.
Treatment guidelines are protocols for doctors, advising them how to treat every kind of injury using “evidence-based medicine” — what has been found to work best in the majority of similar cases.
The guideline for a particular injury might recommend an MRI, 12 sessions of physical therapy, restrictions on movement and activity for a specified period, a specific medication and so on.
You may be incensed at this idea of cookbook medicine, but hang on. There are several pieces to this concept.

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