Workplace Injuries and Painkiller Addiction in Texas

We hear about the large amounts of money that employers pay each year to workers hurt in horrific accidents on the job, but it's now coming to light that the routine injuries cost a pretty penny, as well. In a recent article by The New York Times, it is mentioned that workplace insurers spend an estimated $1.4 billion annual on narcotic painkillers. The piece goes on to say that "they are also finding that the medications, if used too early in treatment, too frequently or for too long, can drive up associated disability payouts and medical expenses by delaying an employee's return to work."

Texas is one of the states trying to reverse this trend by instituting pain treatment guidelines. The Texas Medical Board does not take disciplinary action against physicians who do not strictly follow the guidelines; they evaluate each case individually and look to see if the doctor's rationale for treatment indicates a sound clinical judgment documented in the medical records. Some of the recommended guidelines as stated in the Texas Administrative Code include:

  • A physician is responsible for obtaining a medical history and physical examination that includes a problem-focused exam specific to the chief presenting complaint of the patient.
  • The medical record shall document the medical history and examination.
  • For chronic pain, the physician is responsible for a written treatment plan documented in the medical records
  • It is the doctor's responsibility to discuss the risks and benefits of the use of controlled substances for the treatment of chronic pain with the patient, persons designated by the patient, or with the patient's surrogate or guardian if the patient is without medical decision-making capacity. This discussion should be documented in the medical records.
  • There should be an agreement for treatment of chronic pain signed by the physician and the patient
  • Periodic review of the treatment of chronic pain

If you were hurt in an on-the-job injury in Texas, contact Austin Attorney Earl Straight at 512-454-1331.