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Workers Comp Telehealth – Still Worth The Time and Expense?

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Workers Comp Telehealth – Still A Viable Post-Pandemic Option

A few Workers Comp telehealth articles on telehealth have appeared recently in the blogosphere.  I titled this article telemedicine. Then I read the somewhat outdated article on the CDC website. You can check it out here.

The CDC’s comments on telehealth –

The use of telehealth has expanded exponentially since the late 1990s, and current projections indicate that its use will occupy a $30 billion dollar corner of the healthcare market by 2020, an increase of $20.4 billion since 2013. Among rural Medicare recipients alone, the number of telemedicine visits increased from just over 7,000 in 2004 to nearly 108,000 in 2013.   

I wanted to explore the whole market for telemedicine and then slice out the Workers Comp piece of the overall market.  An archived article from the CDC pointed out a few salient points – the first one is an interesting thought for workers comp telehealth.

Potential Limitations of Telehealth

  • Interstate licensure challenges and other regulatory issues that may vary by state
  • Situations in which in-person visits are more appropriate due to urgency, underlying health conditions, or inability to perform an adequate physical exam
  • The need to address sensitive topics, especially if there is patient discomfort or concern for privacy
  • Limited access to technological devices (e.g., smartphone, tablet, computer) needed for a telehealth visit or connectivity issues
  • Level of comfort with technology for the health care providers and patients
  • Cultural acceptance of conducting virtual visits in lieu of in-person visits by HCP and patients

The first two points are bolded for a reason.  These conundrums have occurred in files we have reviewed since the beginning of the pandemic.

We also saw a lengthening of Temporary Total Disability periods as the workers comp claimants would not attend in-person office visits to be rated and released.  If this issue was challenged by the workers comp adjusters, the judges would allow waiting until the pandemic subsided overall.

A good page that would familiarize injured workers with workers comp telemedicine was provided by HHS here.

My Experience With Telemedicine

I attended one office visit in 2020 using my laptop.  I wrote an article on the visit.  Check the article out at this link. 

I found it to be OK IF (big IF) no type of physical exam is required at the appointment.  My appointment was to review lab work with a specialist.  It was perfect for my situation.

Physical medicine appointments with specialists such as orthopedists would seem to require an in-person visit.

WCIRB (California) Stunning Chart on Workers Comp Telehealth Use

I thought I would see what any of the rating bureaus had on telemedicine use during the pandemic.  The chart from the State of the State presentation  showed the amazing increase in telehealth visits.

Slide of workers comp telehealth visits California
(c) WCIRB – Oakland, CA

The third point in the chart shows that telehealth could be a viable option going forward

The average use of telemedicine services started to stabilize in the third quarter of 2020 but remained approximately
40 times higher than the 2019 level.

Will we go completely back to the old methods of Workers Comp medical treatment or will telehealth be a viable option for the long run?  Look at the chart above again to see a viable market.

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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Mgmt Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications

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