Early intervention: An on-site healthcare provider’s perspective

Image: Work Healthy Australia

Early Intervention is something that onsite healthcare providers refer to quite often.

However, the meaning behind these two simple words is often a point of contention when it comes to implementing a proactive injury prevention strategy in the workplace.

So, what does early intervention mean to an on-site healthcare provider?

Early intervention (or EI) can be used as a category of injury classification.

EI generally implies that there are no significant underlying issues that might slow or limit the full recovery of the patient within a reasonable timeframe.

Underlying issues could include health conditions (like diabetes), or a previous injury.

By first categorising a patient’s condition, onsite healthcare providers are better placed to determine the treatment approach, prognosis and other steps that may be necessary to achieve the best possible outcome.

At first it might seem self-explanatory, but there are several factors that need to be considered before a clinician will place a patient’s injury in the early intervention category. 

Here are some of the things an onsite healthcare provider might do:

  • Collect a thorough medical history to identify any health conditions that might impact the patient’s recovery
  • Consult with the patient/worker about their current injury, and any previous injuries to the same or surrounding body regions

A comprehensive physical examination may also be conducted to:

  • Determine if the condition or injury requires any further investigation (e.g. imaging or scans)
  • Understand how likely it is that a previous injury (if identified) will have an impact on recovery

Only once existing health conditions and previous injuries can be ruled out as having an impact on recovery time, will a patient’s injury be classified as early intervention.

Why is it so important to follow this process?

Not doing the work to classify a patient’s injury can result in a failure to appropriately manage and treat it – plain and simple.

What could this mean for the patient?

  • A slower recovery time
  • An increased risk of future injuries; and/or
  • A higher risk of sustaining a serious injury in the future due to instabilities (caused by incorrect healing)

Adhering to a thorough process of assessing and categorising an injury will mean that the patient can be effectively and appropriately rehabilitated based on their condition.

This also presents an opportunity to identify the need for additional strengthening programs, training or other reasonable adjustments that may be required.

And most importantly, appropriately classifying and managing these injuries can stop small problems from becoming bigger, and more costly problems.

Early intervention tips to help a business:

  • Encourage open communication for employees to advise or report if they are not feeling well or experiencing physical discomfort or injury as soon as it is noticed
  • Clearly communicate the required process for reporting and following up an injury at work and assign a central point of contact to help manage this process
  • Train supervisors and managers to ensure all key stakeholders in your business understand the injury triage and management process, and the benefits of early intervention care.