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Certified Physician Program

The Certified Physician Program (CPP) formally trains physicians to perform all of the tasks that the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Law requires. The two main goals of the program are increasing access for injured workers to trained physicians and reducing the number of days that injured workers are out of work.

The Certified Physician Program is part of a larger program called R.E.W.A.R.D., which is an acronym for Return Employees to Work And Reduce Disabilities. The overall objective of the R.E.W.A.R.D. program is to reduce the number of days that injured workers are out of work, decreasing the likelihood that they will suffer from mental and behavioral disorders associated with unemployment and increasing the health advantages of being productive members of the workforce. The R.E.W.A.R.D. program will help workers maintain work relationships, physical and financial independence, and mental and emotional health. It will also help lower costs associated with medical treatment, wage replacement, permanent disability, and workers' compensation. Both employees and employers have strong incentives to minimize the disruption caused by workplace injuries.

Physicians Play a Critical Role in Workers’ Compensation

Physicians can play a vital role in the return-to-work process by establishing the expectation from the onset of treatment that the goal for the injured worker is to make a full recovery and to return to work as soon as possible. Physicians also routinely make decisions that have a profound effect on both the injured worker and the employer.

Most Physicians are not Formally Trained in Many Aspects of Workers' Compensation

Unfortunately, the processes of determining causation, maximum medical improvement, permanent impairment, modified duty, and work limitations are not taught in medical school. Most physicians, except for those on the Medical Impairment Rating Registry, have never received formal training in these matters, and some can benefit from specialized instruction. Physicians might be reluctant to accept workers' compensation patients because they are required to perform tasks for which they have not received training.

Bureau-Certified Physicians Make a Better System

The CPP is designed to teach physicians how to better fulfill their unique role in the workers’ compensation system, especially the recovery and return-to-work processes. By doing so, the CPP will help improve the experience for physicians and all other stakeholders, making it more appealing for physicians to accept workers’ compensation patients. Having more trained physicians, particularly those who specialize in areas of medicine that are currently underrepresented in the system, makes it easier for employers to provide panels of three physicians when their employees become injured. More physicians in the system also improves access for injured workers to medical care. And, since the Bureau-Certified physicians will be formally trained to set return-to-work expectations and emphasize them throughout the recovery process, both employers and employees will benefit from fewer employee workdays missed, better health and psychosocial outcomes, lower workers’ compensation costs, and fewer disability claims.

Core Competencies of Bureau-Certified Physicians

Bureau certified physicians will be able to:

  1. Provide accurate causation opinions within the parameters of Tennessee workers’ compensation laws.
  2. Consistently set appropriate return-to-work expectations and goals with the injured workers whom they treat.
  3. Accurately assign temporary work limitations, maximum medical improvement, permanent impairment ratings, and permanent work restrictions, when applicable.
  4. Effectively communicate with injured workers, adjusters, case managers, and return-to-work coordinators.
  5. Expertly navigate the Tennessee workers’ compensation system, including treatment guidelines and utilization review appeals.

Benefits of Being a Bureau-Certified Physician

Certified Physicians will receive:

  1. More exposure to the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation System. The names and specialties of certified physicians will be published on the Bureau’s website, providing a directory of workers’ compensation physicians where none has existed previously. Employers and their workers’ compensation insurance carriers will have access to a network of trained physicians who accept workers’ compensation patients.
  2. Enhanced fees for completing forms and reports.
  3. Greater confidence that they have the knowledge and resources to meet the challenges associated with bringing workers’ compensation patients into their practices.
  4. Continuing Medical Education Credits.
  5. Training that satisfies requirements for seeking appointment to the Medical Impairment Rating Registry.

Benefits of Utilizing a Bureau-Certified Physician

Bureau-Certified Physicians:

  1. Accept workers’ compensation patients, so creating physician panels is easier for employers.
  2. Are formally trained and knowledgeable in the tasks that workers’ compensation requires of them, such as how to assign causation, work restrictions, and permanent impairment.
  3. Are easy to find, since their names and specialties are posted on the Bureau’s website.
  4. May lower workers’ compensation costs. Certified physicians will set goals and expectations early in the treatment timeline, so that injured workers will return to work as soon as possible. A quicker return to work leads to better overall health outcomes and lower treatment and disability costs.

Responsibilities of a Bureau-Certified Physician

Bureau-certified physicians will agree to:

  1. Accept workers’ compensation patients.
  2. Re-certify every three years.
  3. Abide by the program rules.

Physician Prerequisites for Bureau Certification

To be eligible for Bureau certification, a physician must:

  1. Possess a license to practice medicine or osteopathy in Tennessee that is current, active, and unrestricted.
  2. Be Board-eligible or Board-certified in their medical specialty by a Board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Osteopathic Association or another organization acceptable to the Administrator.
  3. Furnish satisfactory proof of carrying the minimum medical malpractice insurance coverage amounts in T.C.A. § 29-20-403.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

The online certification course will be available in 2022. As physicians become certified, they will be added to a directory on the Bureau’s webpage.

We expect the online training curriculum to be available in 2022. 

Physician Questions

The exact fees are still under discussion but will likely increase the amount physicians receive for (1) an initial workers’ compensation examination and evaluation, (2) follow-up visits, and (3) completing the C-30A, final medical report form.

Yes. The physician must pass a comprehensive 50-question multiple choice test. Additionally, physicians must either be certified in impairment rating methodology from an approved organization or pass the Bureau’s own impairment rating test. Like the comprehensive test, the Bureau’s impairment rating test is 50-multiple choice questions. Each test has a two-hour time limit.

Since the course is online and self-paced, it will be accessible at the physician’s convenience. Course progress will be saved, so the physician will be able to continue from the last module completed.

The training is offered online and will likely take a total of eight or nine hours, not including the time required for the comprehensive tests.

Training topics include determining causation and permanent impairment, navigating the Tennessee workers’ compensation system, helping injured workers return to work, assigning maximum medical improvement and work limitations, following treatment guidelines, understanding court processes, practicing effective office and billing processes, communicating with the case manager and return-to-work coordinators, conducting independent medical examinations, and submitting utilization review appeals. 

Instructors for the CPP course include physicians, judges, and staff from the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. 

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