As someone who has sustained a work-related injury, you are not only entitled to medical treatment, it is often a requirement for you to receive benefits. Unfortunately, the company rules or workers’ compensation insurance policy may dictate that you see a specific doctor rather than allowing you to see the physician of your choice.
In theory, it should not matter what doctor you see for your work-related injury. The physician your employer or its workers’ compensation insurer chooses should be qualified and competent to treat you. However, you may get the sense that the doctor has a bias against you, and you are not necessarily receiving the best care as a result.
Unfortunately, this may not be your imagination. While you might like to believe that all physicians are consummate professionals and free from bias, a 2016 survey indicates that this is not always the case.
Physician bias by specialty
Unfortunately, four of the five specialists most likely to admit bias to some degree are among those most likely to treat you for a work-related injury, including family doctors, emergency room doctors, orthopedists and psychiatrists.
Types of bias
According to the survey, doctors tend to form negative impressions of patients based on the following actual or perceived characteristics:
- Emotional condition
- Insurance coverage
- Language differences
Of particular concern for you as a work comp patient is the insurance coverage. The doctor may be more likely to render opinions that work in the insurance company’s favor rather than acting in your interest.
A small percentage of survey respondents, which varied by specialty, admitted that preconceived notions affected the care that they provided to patients. The reported effect was negative 29% of the time, compared to approximately 25% who reported positive effects of bias, i.e., special care.
It is important to keep in mind that the survey only shows the bias that doctors voluntarily chose to report. It does not reflect the unconscious bias of physicians, nor does it indicate how many were aware of their biases but made a choice to conceal them during the survey. Therefore, the actual incidence of physician bias could be much higher than reported.
If you feel that you have been the victim of physician bias in a work comp case, it may be very helpful to hire a lawyer who will stand up for your rights.