Telehealth and Workers' Compensation: Benefits and Recovery Outcomes

Topics: Workers' Compensation

Video chatting with your doctor. Receiving text reminders about an upcoming doctor’s appointment. Viewing test results through an online portal.

These are all examples of telehealth in action.

Defined as the delivery of health care and related services via telecommunication technologies, telehealth is getting the attention of the workers’ compensation industry – from regulators and healthcare providers to employers and insurance carriers.

And so far, they like what they see.

There is a growing belief that digital health care can offer an ideal platform for companies looking to keep their workforce healthy. A synthesis of digital technology, data and medicine, telehealth has the potential to transform the workers’ compensation industry by providing:
  • Instant assessment of a workplace injury, allowing for immediate triage
  • Efficient, personalized treatment
  • Anytime access to clinical data
  • Remote patient monitoring
  • Time savings by eliminating trips to the emergency room, treatment clinic or doctor’s office
  • Claims specialists with the ability to collaborate with various specialists
  • Better recovery outcomes for injured employees
  • A tremendous opportunity for employers to reduce their healthcare costs

A Promising Tool for Managing Workers’ Compensation Costs & Optimizing Injured Employee Outcomes

telehealth and workers' compensation

Although stakeholders have been slow to adopt it, telehealth has undeniable value. One of the featured topics at the National Council on Compensation Insurance’s 2019 Annual Issues Symposium, the nation’s largest workers’ compensation conference, telehealth and telemedicine have the potential to create a paradigm shift in how medical treatment is delivered. According to the presenters, digital healthcare has the chance to be a “game changer” in the work comp industry.

Here are a few statistics to consider:
  • Currently, 76 percent of U.S. hospitals connect with patients and consulting practitioners via video and other technology, according to the American Hospital Association (AHA).
  • Whether through Medicaid or a private insurance provider, every state in the U.S. offers coverage for telemedicine.
  • Today, 35 states and the District of Columbia have enacted “parity” laws, which generally require health insurers to cover services provided via telehealth the same way they would reimburse for services provided in person, per the AHA.
  • Eighty percent of larger employers currently use telemedicine, and experts expect the number to exceed 90 percent before the end of 2019, according to highlights of the 2019 RIMS Conference and Exhibition.
  • The top healthcare initiative for about half of employers in 2019 will be increasing their virtual care solutions.

Helping Injured Workers Recover Faster

An important part of the rehabilitation process, telehealth seamlessly connects injured employees with healthcare and rehabilitation services, expediting the recovery process so recovering employees can return to the workplace sooner. Thanks to advancements in telehealth technology, physicians can zero in on a worker’s injury to determine its extent and ultimately the best treatment option.

While telemedicine isn’t a viable option for severe or life-threatening injuries, it makes sense for many common workplace injuries, from strains and sprains to cuts and minor scrapes.

Fast injury assessment is just one of telehealth’s industry-changing benefits. According to a 2017 article published by URAC, “telehealth programs customized for occupational health can reduce utilization, lower costs, improve the accuracy of claim compensability determinations and enhance the injured workers’ overall care experience.”

Potential Obstacles

Incorporating telemedicine into the workplace does present certain challenges such as language and cultural barriers, privacy and cyber security concerns, and regulatory and reimbursement issues. Despite these challenges, digital health care – and its numerous benefits – warrant a closer look, especially from those in the manufacturing and food service industries where musculoskeletal injuries frequently occur. While it will not affect spending on catastrophic claims, telehealth can be an invaluable tool for employers managing smaller workers’ compensation injuries.

When it comes to utilizing telehealth, experts recommend that medical practitioners and claims adjusters strike a balance between the use of telemedicine and in-person care to ensure the best treatment outcome for every injured worker. With the potential to transform the workers’ comp industry, telehealth connects patients, physicians, employers and insurance providers in a way that works for everyone.

Leading the Way in Workers’ Comp

As the nation’s number one carrier in the small workers’ comp market, AmTrust has been providing small businesses with effective risk management solutions since 1998. Through the years, we have evolved into a multinational property and casualty insurer, one that today serves over 400 classes of business. Stronger than ever, we can build a coverage plan that best meets the needs of your business.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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