TAKING CONTROL OF DOCTOR REFERRALS
Recently, a client of this law firm was presented with a situation where the authorized treating physician made a referral to a specific pain management facility. Our client felt that section 25-5-77 granted the employer the right to choose the doctor and not the authorized treating physician. The client refused to authorize the facility and the employee’s attorney filed a motion to compel and a request for sanctions. Prior to filing a response, we submitted a letter to the authorized treating physician which solicited his reasons for choosing the facility in question. We further asked him to state whether or not his choice was any better than the physician our client preferred and, if so, to explain why. In response, the doctor stated that our client’s choice was just as good as his. In our filed response, we acknowledged that prior case law had empowered doctors with the ability to make referrals to other specific doctors. However, we argued that it was assumed in the prior case that the doctor had a medical reason for making the specific referral. Since our treating physician did not provide a medical reason for choosing that particular facility, we argued that the choice should revert back to the employer as set forth in 25-5-77. After filing the response and supporting physician letter, the employee’s attorney withdrew the motion and request for sanctions and allowed our client to choose the doctor. Although this is not a reported decision, it certainly provides employers and adjustors with a blue print for retaining control of the employee’s medical treatment in the future.