Looking for a way to reduce costs and lost time for Workers’ Comp claims? Who isn’t, right? Telehealth may be a good solution.
The use of telehealth overall is on the rise, mostly due to the pandemic. People are becoming more comfortable with it in both individual and group health settings. It’s proving valuable for Workers’ Comp claims, too.
How It Works
Telehealth allows workers to be evaluated, diagnosed and treated via smartphone or computer, using video conferencing. Most Workers’ Comp providers now offer this service on a 24/7 basis.
Our trusted colleagues at AF Group, a Workers’ Comp carrier, begin the process with a nurse triage phone line. If the injury meets the criteria for telehealth, they offer that option. The choice to pursue telehealth vs. a clinic visit is then left up to the worker. Telehealth is most appropriate for minor sprains and strains, insect bites, noise exposure, minor assault, skin irritations and minor burns.
AF Group’s Medical Management Director Paul Kauffman says they initially had about an 8% participation rate for telemedicine when they rolled it out a few years ago. Utilization increased at the start of the pandemic and has leveled off at 20% to 25% of all calls triaged. The average number of visits accomplished via telehealth also has increased from one or two at the start to three or four today. They’re even using it for follow-up physical therapy.
- Speeds up access to care for injured workers
- Minimizes time away from work
- Eliminates clinic travel and wait times
- Works well for remote and dispersed work locations
- Reduces delays in evaluation and treatment
- Reduces medical and indemnity cost
- Demonstrates that the employer cares about employee convenience
Be careful to ensure telehealth is used only for appropriate injuries. According to Paul, it’s not recommended for evaluation of injures with high pain levels, excessive bleeding, head injuries or neurological issues. Privacy also can be a concern if the worker doesn’t have a secure place to conduct the telehealth visit. Finally, he stresses the importance of staffing Workers’ Comp telehealth with occupational medicine health specialists rather than internal or family practice medicine specialists, who generally do not treat occupational injuries.
The bottom line is this: Telehealth is one good tool for managing Workers’ Comp. It’s worker-friendly and can reduce your overall costs.
By Ryan Miller, CLCS, CAWC, Commercial Risk Advisor, The Miller Group
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