Independent medical advisers

Some workers compensation cases involve medical matters that require expert medical explanations or opinions.

In such cases SAET may refer a medical question to an independent medical adviser (IMA) for an expert opinion that will help it resolve an uncertainty or disagreement.

IMAs are medical professionals. They may be called upon to provide information about an injury diagnosis, recommendations for treatment, surgical options, whether more than one injury has arisen from the same trauma, and whole person impairment assessments.

The IMA will examine the injured worker and provide SAET with a report answering its questions.

What can I expect?

When SAET (in consultation with the worker and employer) identifies that medical information is required, its questions are put in writing for referral to an appropriate IMA.

If the worker and employee cannot agree on an IMA, SAET will ask the Minister’s Advisory Committee for a recommendation and refer the medical questions to the recommended IMA.

SAET staff will contact the IMA and make an appointment for you to be examined at the IMA’s surgery or clinic. If you need an interpreter, SAET will arrange one for you.

The IMA will provide SAET with a report answering its questions. Sometimes an IMA is required to provide a second report or give evidence in person.

IMA Guidelines

The Independent Medical Adviser Guidelines set out the detail of procedures for referring medical questions for assessment by independent medical advisers, the conduct of any necessary examination, the provision of a medical report, the payment for such report and the giving of oral evidence.

They guide IMAs in carrying out their duties in a manner that is consistent with SAET’s objectives and help them:

  • identify and resolve ethical disputes
  • ensure the highest standards of conduct in their relationship with the parties
  • maintain appropriate standards of professional performance.

The Return to Work Act 2014 also details:

  • referral of a medical question(s) arising in proceedings (Section 121)
  • SAET’s and IMAs’ powers and procedures in relation to a referral (Section 122)
  • provision of the IMA’s report (Section 123).

IMAs are appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of a panel of respected representatives of the medical profession, unions and employers.