Right! After reading my book on the subject, you have decided to start your own occupational health service. So much to do and it’s all so exciting. But wait – you need some essential documents in place before starting offering your services to clients – this is something you cannot make up as you go along.
This post takes you through what I consider are the 8 occupational health ‘must have’ documents to get any health professional started in Occupational Health; no matter if you are a sole practitioner or a nationwide OH provider.
1. Information about your service for purchasers
1.1. In-house OH services
Up to date CV setting out your experience and geared towards the company in question. Individual’s who are considering applying for an in-house occupational health service should first ask for the person specification and job description and adapt their CV to the needs of the organisation. Also, look at the business website to learn what the current business objectives are and any other relevant details about the workforce health risks and potential reasons of where you could add value to their business.
1.2. Contracted OH services
Many OH companies explain their service via websites and shining printed leaflets. Services usually cover issues such as numbers and types of business already being serviced, testimonials from people, mission statement and philosophy, geographical location and, most importantly, contact names. However, if you can’t afford this outlay, why not have a one-page document for the company you are providing occupational health services for so that people can understand what you do and why.
Or make a simple video to give reassurance. See below for an example of a free resource available from Animoto that I use to make short information videos for display on my website.
2. Service Level Agreement (SLA)
The usual way of dealing with the expectations of the client and their workers is to discuss and agree on how your service will work in the preliminary discussions leading up to being awarded the contract. Once decided the service provided should be clearly set out in a document called a service level agreement (SLA) or contract. The service level agreement will also contain agreed targets that your service promises to do e.g. ‘I will send a report back to management within five working days after a display screen equipment assessment’, or, HR will be responsible for setting up all appointments.
The agreed targets are termed key performance indicators or KPI’s and will be specific to each contract. If the contract is for several years, then agree to specific requirements for each year and set these out. Remember this can be a two-edged sword since the requirements for delivery of the service will set out duties for the client and the occupational health service – both sides must deliver their side of the bargain.
The SLA should contain the details of the service you offer, the time frame of actions, costs, variations of service etc. To see a simple example of an occupational health SLA and three-year plan click here
3. Information leaflets for patients/clients using your services
It is important that people who use your service as a patient are given some information about the service before being seen for an appointment. The information covers issues such as:
- What Occupational Health is and that it is run by professional doctors, nurses etc
- The typical work that OH will do
- Location on site
- Complaints rules
- Data protection statement and safeguards
- Information on how managers use the service
- The information being shared with managers
- Contact numbers for any issues
- What happens if patients do not want to participate
4. Consent Forms for Patients/Clients to Sign
Informed consent can be one of 6 categories in occupational health practice:
4.1. Consent is required when requesting a report from an individual’s GP. This is specified in the Access to Medical Reports Act and gives an employee certain rights to see a report, correct errors or withhold the report from being seen by the requester. A template consent form and GP letter are available from here if a subscriber to this site. Click here for access.
4.2. Consent is required to enter individual’s health data onto any recording system e.g. an electronic database or medical records
4.3. Consent should be obtained from an individual before undergoing health checks with an occupational health service provider
4.4. The Faculty of Occupational Medicine states that it is the duty of OH Doctors to ensure that the subject of a health assessment has been properly informed about the purpose, nature and outputs, including likely consequences; further, that the employee has consented to the process including the preparation and release of an occupational health report. Where practicable the individual’s written consent should be obtained. Consent may be withdrawn at any stage of the process
4.5. Consent is required to release medical or personal information to a third party
4.6. Consent is required to undertake research whether anonymised or specific
Note: Individuals can refuse consent or even change their mind about giving or withholding consent at any time. Further professional information and guidance is published by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (December 2012)
5. Management Referral Forms
The management referral form should be introduced after taking managers through the training of how and when to refer employees to occupational health. There is a template form available here free to use and adapt as necessary (you need to register with my website to obtain a copy)
6. Health Questionnaires
I have included health questionnaires as one of the 8 essential occupational health must have documents because without these time may be saved by asking employees to complete a questionnaire prior to the appointment with occupational health plus there is no danger that you will forget anything and it is a written record of facts.
You can either develop your own health questionnaire or search the web for examples and modify to suit your taste and to add your branding to screen for different issues. Beware though that you ask too many questions for a simple test. Everyone hates answering the same questions over and over. Ok so they were on different health checks but why not amalgamate?
Try to merge the questionnaires if an employee is attending occupational health for more than one health check.
Case Study: I was asked to check a health questionnaire from a large OH provider as the purchasing company thought it was too long and repetitive. I was handed a questionnaire of 15 pages for the employee to complete! When I looked through the questionnaire I discovered that the document was actually many different screening questionnaires in one big ‘lump’.
I took these observations back to the issuing OH Company who told me that Managers should chose which questionnaire to give to the worker and not give the whole bunch. To which the purchaser replied that they didn’t know (or had the time) to work out which one was supposed to be given out for which health check.
Many questionnaires are available as a free download if you click here (you need to register)
7. Template Reports
I found report writing time-consuming. To save time, put together some template management reports; use these to save time and effort in setting out and writing a full report.
Many managers prefer a standard format although more complex problems may require much more written to cover the issues in question. Examples of such templates are available to subscribers on my website. Click here to access my template At a Glance Fitness Advice Form (you will need to register to download this)
8. Management Information on OH Activity
No eight on the list is by no means last. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is one of the differences between a good occupational health service and an excellent one.
Managers just love to have written feedback on your work and if it is a pie chart or graph then this enhances OH professional image! I did this because my manager thought I wasn’t busy. I guess that is a direct result of keeping medical confidentiality – we can’t really tell anyone what we do – or can we!
As long as health professionals do not reveal the identity of those attending we can provide excellent management information.
In the early days I started with a coloured pencil and ruler Manhattan chart of all the work I had done on a monthly basis (showing return to works and management referrals and pure numbers of attendees for treatments) but with the advent of computers I moved on to Excel spreadsheets and simple graphs with analysis within the emails. Fortunately with the software available now, there are many ways of monitoring and reporting back to Management on the work that Occupational Health is doing; and, if you accompany the raw data with a written report, there can be justification for changes in practices. That is how you make the best use of an OH service.
Here is an example of MI for a fictitious occupational health service:
As you can see August is relatively quiet due to annual leave and health surveillance is a major part of the workload. This is a simple example. Consider a pie chart or dashboard? Experiment in Excel or Google Sheets.
What to Report On
Go to an excellent video on YouTube here to see how this is done – really it is quite simple and looks impressive. Collate MI on a monthly basis. Also, include feedback on how OH is meeting its SLA. And quarterly, why not update progress on the three-year plan. Include selected information (agreed with Management) such as:
- How many new referrals
- The number of ‘open/ongoing’ management referrals
- How many DNA’s did you have? (often high in poorly managed contracts)
- Number of health surveillance appointments
- The number referred to others (e.g., GP, Specialist, Counselling, Physiotherapy, etc)
- Workplace visits
- Short and long-term absence referrals
- Emerging/Seasonal health issues e.g., Swine Flu, flu vaccination
- Preplacement assessments
- Pregnancy risk assessment
- Health and Safety Meetings/HR Meetings/Case Conferences
The feedback should demonstrate how occupational health can add value.
Essential Occupational Health Must Have Documents
What am I missing? Is there a document you think should be on this list?
Further Reading and Advice
- What is Occupational Health Video
- Questions to Ask of Occupational Health
- Employees Guide to Seeing Occupational Health
- Hiring OH Services
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