Buoyed by convenience, along with time and cost savings, employers and workers’ compensation insurers have begun eagerly offering telemedicine as an alternative to visiting an urgent care center. Originally, telemedicine for workers’ compensation was billed as a solution for employees in rural areas, where access to health clinics is limited. However, the program has been so well received that insurers have begun offering telemedicine in urban areas as well. Additionally, healthcare providers are finding that telemedicine is useful for more than just treating the initial injury on-site; the platform works well for follow-up appointments and post-op visits too.
AF Group, the parent organization of a nationwide group of workers’ compensation carriers, added telemedicine to their services a few years ago. Traditionally, any workplace injury requires either a visit to a healthcare facility or a call for an ambulance, resulting in the patient leaving the workplace for hours to receive treatment. Under the AF Group’s program, when a worker is injured, a phone call is placed to a nurse who is trained in acute injury. After the initial evaluation, the nurse will advise the patient on whether a telemedicine visit, an in-office visit, or an emergency room visit would be most appropriate. For instance, strains, sprains, cuts, and minor scrapes, the most common claims among injured workers, can often be managed with guidance from a provider via telemedicine.
With telemedicine for workers’ compensation, some employers report cutting their workers’ comp expenses in half—and that’s not counting the lost productivity that is minimized because the employee is treated on-site rather than traveling to a clinic and waiting for hours to be seen; when the employee stays at the workplace, he/she is able to return to work much more quickly.
Insurers appreciate the program’s method of more accurately triaging patients, administering the appropriate level of care, and directing the patients to the proper physician for his/her situation. Otherwise, injuries can lead to an emergency room visit, where patients often undergo a number of costly scans. Ultimately, using the telemedicine program cuts down on medical costs for each patient.
Although some barriers remain in place, such as language, culture, privacy, and regulatory and reimbursement issues, many insurers feel optimistic. In the coming years, they say, telemedicine will likely become a standard practice within the workers’ comp industry due to its ability to improve customer satisfaction and provide faster access to medical care.
To learn more about using telemedicine for workers’ compensation, visit Insurance Journal here.