The study used 45,951 indemnity claims with two years of development filed between 2008 and 2013 from the Accident Fund, United Heartland, Third Coast Underwriters and CompWest.
A compliance score was devised by comparing diagnosis and treatment codes, and seeing whether Work Loss Data Institute’s UR Advisor product rated the selected treatment as “green flag,” meaning the treatment is recommended for that diagnosis; black flag, meaning denial recommended; red flag when a review of the treatment is advised; and yellow flag if the treatment is allowed on a limited basis. Using a calculation based on how often green or yellow versus black flags appeared, claims were sorted into low-compliance and high-compliance groups.
WLDI provided access to the Official Disability Guidelines database but did not ask the researchers to conduct the study, didn’t participate in it and provided no funding, according to WLDI. The UR Advisor product used in the study is a tool for looking up information in the Official Disability Guidelines, they said.
According to the research, claim duration was 13.2% longer, and medical costs were 37.9% higher for claims in the low-compliance group compared to the high-compliance group. In a subset of the most medically complex claims, duration for the low-compliance group was 18% longer than for the high-compliance group, and medical costs were 38% higher.
More, similar conclusions were made based on the data.
Though the study used ODG, rival publishers were equally enthusiastic about the report and are interested in how the methodology used to test ODG can be applied to other guidelines.
It has always interested me why different jurisdictions have different treatment guidelines since, presumably, all humans possess the same anatomy and biology regardless of location.
Ultimately, the difference between ODG and the American College of Orthopedic and Environmental Medicine guidelines is in the presentation of information and timeliness of incorporation of new research.
Different states, however, essentially succumb to special interests pressure to develop their own guidelines at great expense.
More importantly, though, is that state guidelines will eventually lag behind the research, becoming out of date, because the cost of staffing, reading, cataloging, reviewing, and confirming the vast universe of medical research is too costly, too daunting.
While there is usually a provision in the law for other EBM guidelines to supplant the state presumed default, doing so is thwarted by costs to the subject, or by operation of law.
California is a classic example. There is really no reason for California to have separate guidelines, yet the state continues to rely on its own, antiquated, Medical Treatment Utilization Guidelines. The law provides that the MTUS may be rebutted with other EBM, but if the payer's Utilization Review doesn't accept that argument, and the matter goes to Independent Medical Review, it's over.
Because IMR will follow the MTUS. And, once in the rabbit hole of IMR, there's no getting out.
Other states don't have any guidelines, and the JOEM study is a great argument for those states to adopt one of the standards (and hopefully shy away from the special interests intent on creating their own standards).
For instance, Pennsylvania law makers have before them House Bill 1800, a proposal to adopt “nationally recognized,” evidence-based medical treatment guidelines in workers’ compensation. Opponents say the guidelines are a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.
Nebraska's attempt failed last year against the same arguments.
Buying into those arguments simply reflects a lack of understanding what treatment guidelines are and ignores the fact that the general health insurance industry has been following guidelines since, basically, forever...
Whether I'm in California, Florida, Arkansas or Alaska, my physiology doesn't change, and neither should treatment protocol.
There has been a lot of talk lately about standards across state lines. Medical treatment protocol should be one of them.