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QMEs Must Do Exams in Person – No Emoticon Reports!

Hello dear readers!

Your humble blogger bids you a very happy Wednesday, and hopes all is well in the world of the blog readers.

One of the wonderful charms of practicing workers’ compensation, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area, is that there appears to be a shortage of court reporters from time to time.  On a few occasions, y our humble blogger has observed trials and expedited hearings being postponed because no court reporter is available – sometimes none are present at all, and sometimes the only ones available are taken by other matters.

To relieve this pressure, the WCAB has started using remote court reporters with the aid of speaker phones and web cameras.  So your trial in San Francisco might be documented by a court reporter in Los Angeles or San Jose.  Fairly decent audio and visual technology has allowed an idle court reporter to fill a need in another part of the state.

As my readers will recall, the same technology, to a very limited extent, is being applied to address QMEs.  The issue of telemedicine was addressed briefly on this blog before but has come up again in Gonzales v. ABM Industries, where applicant declined to be examined by a QME using “telemedicine.”  From the case facts, it appears that the PQME would have examined applicant (presumably) by video and audio, with a local chiropractic QME to do the actual measurements.

Applicant sought to have the panel replaced on the grounds that without having the specific QME listed on the panel perform the face-to-face examination himself, he’s denied a meaningful choice from the panel.

The WCJ ruled that the telemedicine consent form allows applicant to refuse a QME exam through this means.  The WCAB denied removal.

So, just a few thoughts on this issue, dear readers:

How many applicants actually object to a pain management QME with an assist from a chiropractic QME?  Isn’t that an applicant’s dream team?  Perhaps there is more at work here than what is available from the facts of the case – if applicant is continuing to receive TTD benefits (remember, dear readers, that applicants already get practically full control over which PTP they will see), perhaps there is a tactical benefit to delaying the resolution of the file?  Just as easily, could a defendant decide to delay resolution of a file by objecting to telemedicine?

Additionally, while relief was sought on removal, aren’t panel disputes now valid grounds for reconsideration?

Finally, perhaps we need to revise the laws regulating medical-legal examinations.  If a QME exam really is conducted over both audio and video tools, how easy would it be to have the examination recorded?  Everything that was said (and everything that wasn’t said) would be evident to all parties, as would the actual results from any measurements taken.

Your humble blogger submits, once again, that there would be tremendous benefit to legitimately injured worker and the employers and insurers that pay all the bills to have such transparency.

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