Board proposes to expand Medical Treatment Guidelines to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

It has been nearly a year since the Medical Treatment Guidelines become the mandatory standard of care for injured workers, regardless of the date of injury or accident for injuries to the back, neck, shoulder, or knee. N.Y.C.R.R. 324.2. Now the Board has proposed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Medical Treatment Guidelines. This will impact handling of these claims as currently treatments (such as release surgeries) which cost more than $1,000 are subject to carrier approval for body parts not covered by the MTG. Under the proposed Guideleines, nearly all carpal tunnel release surgeries will be considered pre-approved.

What do the current Guidelines cover?

Under the current Medical Treatment Guideliness, medical care provided to injured workers must satisfy a two-prong test:

    (1) Medical care for workers’ compensation injuries to the neck, low back, mid back, shoulder, and knee must be provided in a manner “consistent with the MTG.” This is the standard for doctors and health care providers to follow.
    (2) “Consistent with the MTG” means that care is provided within the criteria and based upon a correct application of the MTG. What is “within the criteria” and “a correct application” is left open for the WCB’s WC Judges to interpret.

The Medical Treatment Guidelines include statements of “General Principles” in each MTG’s first section. These are the key principles necessary to apply and interpret the MTGs. There are 23 general principles divided into 6 categories. Of these, the two most important are:

    (1) Medical Care. The purpose of medical care is to restore functional ability required to meet daily and work-related activities, to obtain a positive patient response primarily defined as functional gains which can be objectively measured, and to provide effective treatment which includes evaluations and re-evaluations of treatment and which discontinues ineffective treatments.
    (2) Treatment approaches. Treatment should emphasize active interventions over passive modalities (i.e., therapeutic exercise instead of manipulation), should include passive intervention as a means to facilitate progress in an active rehabilitation program, and should resort to surgical interventions only when there is correlation of clinical findings, clinical course, imaging and other diagnostic tests.

When are Authorizations Required?

All medical consistent with the MTG is pre-authorized and the health care provider is not required to obtain prior authorization. See N.Y.R.R.C. 324.2(d)(1). For carpal tunnel syndrome, all release surgeries will be considered pre-approved under the proposed Guidelines except where there is no electrodiagnostic evidence of carpal tunnel injury (must be EMG and NCV). Further, some therapies, including: low level laser, iontophresis, magnets, or “laser acupuncture” are specifically deprecated.

The Board is accepting comments on the proposed CTS Guidelines and will likely adopt regulations to incorporate the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Medical Treatment Guidelines into the law after December 1, 2011. Of course, I will keep you up to date with the progress of this reposed change.

Now, where’s that pain management guideline we need so badly?!?

Greg Lois is the managing partner of LOIS LLC, a 19-attorney law firm dedicated to defending employers and carriers in New York and New Jersey workers' compensation claims. Greg is the author of a popular series of "Handbooks" on workers' compensation, and is the co-author of the 2016 Lexis-Nexis New Jersey Workers' Compensation Practice Guide. Greg can be reached at 201-880-7213 or glois@lois-llc.com