by Jennifer M. Smith, Esq.

A recent Appellate Division decision is a reminder of how important a completely accurate posted Panel of Physicians can become, even down to the correct address and phone number for a listed physician/provider. In the case, the employer included a well known local orthopedic group on the Panel of Physicians. The panel listed the group’s prior address, instead of the current address, although the correct phone number for the practice was provided. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made a finding that, although the address of the group was incorrectly listed on the panel, the employee could have easily found the address and it was therefore a harmless error.

The Appellate Division disagreed and found that the employer’s failure to list the correct address of a physician or group of physicians, albeit a well-known group, failed to provide the employee with “reasonable access to the physician/medical office” as required by O.C.G.A. § 34-9-201(b). The Appellate Division reasoned that this therefore resulted in the employee’s inability to choose the physician/medical office from the panel and consequently the panel was invalid. The employee was then able to select treatment with a physician of his choice.

This case is a good reminder to periodically review the posted Panel of Physicians and verify all of the information listed remains correct to prevent an otherwise valid panel from becoming invalid. In Georgia, there are three types of panels, but the most traditional panel is a list of at least six unaffiliated physicians or clinics. On this type of panel there must be: 1) at least one physician who specialized in orthopedic surgery; 2) no more than two industrial clinics; and 3) at least one “minority” physician, which generally is based on race or gender. There are two other types of panels – a Conformed Panel of Physicians and a Manage Care Organization “panel.” These types are alternatives to the traditional Panel Of Physicians.

For additional information or advice on preparing a Panel of Physicians, please do not hesitate to contact our office.