You may be surprised to learn that internal medicine and Worker’s Compensation are closely connected. Often workplace injuries are treated in the emergency room and/or by orthopaedic or neurologic surgeons. However, your internal medicine physician is more than qualified to diagnose and treat a number of medical conditions that may result from a Worker’s Compensation incident. Commonly asked questions regarding internal medicine include:

What is internal medicine?

Internal medicine, the world’s largest medical speciality, is a general term for primary care treatment for adults, beginning as young as age 18. This differs from family medicine in which the physician treats an entire family. Internal medicine physicians can diagnose, treat, and even prevent illnesses ranging from short-term to chronic. They do not take the place of a specialist but can provide recommendations or medical advice that might delay the need.

What are internal medicine doctors called?

A doctor who has completed an internal medicine residency is referred to as an internist (not an intern, a medical professional in their first year of training after medical school, before becoming a resident). An internist with no sub-speciality is known as a general internist.

What medical conditions do internists treat?

Internists can treat a wide range of medical disorders. Common conditions, to name a few, include:

  • Respiratory tract infections, asthma, bronchitis
  • Chest pain, heart-related or otherwise
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Over and underactive thyroid glands
  • Flu and other viral and bacterial illnesses
  • Menopause
  • Migraine headaches
  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases

But, remember, this list is in no way exhaustive. Internists can treat numerous Workers Compensation-related conditions and are typically the best first contact for treatment.

What does an internist do?

A better question might be “what does an internist NOT do”? General internists are trained to manage a wide range of adult medical services – diagnosis, treatment, preventative measures and, as needed, referrals to specialists. Because of an internist’s wide scope of skills, a patient may well treat with the same medical provider most or all of their adult life. This provides a level of trust and confidence that is an invaluable contributor to good health.

Do internists ever become specialists?

Yes, internists often continue their studies and become sub-specialists in a focused area of internal medicine as listed in Question 2. Again this is only a representation of the expertise provided by an internist.

How do internal medicine doctors contribute to the treatment of injured workers?

First and foremost, an internist is likely to be your primary care physician and is responsible for managing your care for the injury. Sort of a medical quarterback – diagnose and treat the injury, make referrals as/if necessary and gather medical documentation into one centralized location. In addition, the internist will give clearance for any surgical procedures required and will allow specialists, such as psychologists, to prescribe medications.

What is a Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME)? Can my internist be a QME?

QMEs are medical professionals who are certified by the local Worker’s Compensation Division to assess an injured worker’s injury and write an impartial medical report. This report will contribute to the determination of the injured worker’s eligibility for worker’s compensation benefits.

And yes, an internist can be a QME as can a number of other medical professionals ranging from chiropractors to pain management professionals to acupuncturists.

This all seems a little confusing – should I seek legal advice?

It is important to have legal counsel on your side when you’ve sustained a Worker’s Compensation injury. Contact the Kania Law Office for a free consultation at your earliest opportunity.

Internists are often your most important medical resource when you have sustained a Worker’s Compensation injury. Check with your primary care physician – you might find that you are already under the care of an internist.