Frequently asked questions for physicians
Work Connections is an integrated disability management program developed by the University of Michigan to provide assistance when an employee experiences an illness or injury that prevents him/her from working. The program will provide assistance through the employee’s recovery and help facilitate a safe return to work.
Work Connections acts as a liaison with other programs and services at the University to ensure that you, your patient, and the supervisor have convenient and centralized access to a wide variety of resources. These resources include everything from coordinating the services of nurses, vocational rehabilitation counselors, therapists, and other professionals interested in your patient’s recovery to providing return-to-work support such as job analysis and ergonomic consultations.
There is no cost to the employee or his or her department to use the services offered by Work Connections.
Work Connections staff will assist and provide support in the following ways during the recovery period:
- Contact the employee and you on a regular basis and act as a central clearinghouse for information
- Communicate with all physicians and define options for treatment and what we can do to assist your patient during recovery.
- Provide information to the employee and supervisor and respond to questions about your patient’s absence, benefits, and expected duration of disability.
- Explore options for assistance from other University resources.
- Work Connections provides assistance in obtaining medical documentation that meets certain University’s requirements in order to expedite payment of sick time or other disability benefits. In addition, developing a relationship with the treatment team and obtaining complete medical information is critical to coordinating an effective plan to help your patient.
What about confidentiality of health information? Could Work Connections ever share medical information against the employee’s wishes?
Health information belongs to your patient and Work Connections guards it appropriately. This means that medical information is kept secure, private, and out of public view. Medical information cannot be sent to the home department, but updates regarding the employee’s status, projected duration of absence, and medical restrictions are provided regularly. Maintaining appropriate confidentiality is a fundamental principle of the program. Health information will be released only in the following circumstances:
- With written authorization from the employee
- When a strict need to know is established (e.g., for health/safety reasons, or to make employment status decisions)
- To comply with the requirements of the Workers' Disability Compensation Act.
The employee is responsible for providing sufficient medical documentation to justify an absence. Work Connections provides assistance by identifying what medical documentation is needed and, with authorization from the employee, will request it on your patient’s behalf.
Failure to obtain the necessary medical documentation to justify an absence could have a negative impact on the patient’s ability to obtain benefits.
Under HIPAA regulations, can a doctor or treating facility send medical documentation without written authorization?
- For work-related illness and injuries, medical documentation can be provided pursuant to the Workers' Disability Compensation Act. It's best, however, for the employee to sign the Authorization to Release Patient Information Form since medical conditions may overlap and the absence of complete medical information could result in a delay of services.
- For non-work-related illnesses and injuries, Authorization to Release Patient Information Form is required.
Yes. Authorization may be revoked in writing at any time.
Supervisors who understand an employee's medical issues are often able to provide more support and assistance in identifying return to work options. For this reason, Work Connections encourages employees to disclose information about their medical condition to their supervisor.
Our primary objective is to provide assistance and support to facilitate a safe return to work. If there is a disagreement, discuss your concerns with your patient, his or her claims representative, or the Work Connections supervisor. We will work with you to understand your concerns and find a solution.
Work Connections' objective is to facilitate a safe and lasting return to work. Our staff will work with you, your patient, and his or her supervisor to:
- Help evaluate essential functions of the job and anticipate needs for accommodations, if required
- Discuss and develop a return-to-work plan
- Maintain regular contact with the employee and supervisor to coordinate the return-to-work plan
- Follow up on medical progress and assist with any problems or concerns after your patient has returned to work
A return-to-work plan is developed—with assistance from Work Connections—by you, and other members of the treatment team, the employee, and his or her supervisor. Among other things, it includes information about any physical restrictions such as lifting or sitting for protracted periods of time, along with the target date on which the employee will be fully recovered and able to assume his or her regular duties.