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Cut Healthcare Costs with Telemedicine for Workers Comp

Posted by James Baker, Chief Medical Officer | December 12, 2018 |
James Baker, Chief Medical Officer

Becker’s reports that employers are fed up with the high cost of health insurance. While this isn’t a revelation, The Insurance Journal says inflation tied to medical costs will continue to rise annually by about six percent. They say costs will likely shift from healthcare plans to workers’ compensation because of problems with the Affordable Care Act.

Employers, particularly big OSHA-regulated construction firms, are already paying big money anytime there is an on-site workers comp claim. That’s exactly why MedCity News says employers are turning to telemedicine to give employees an emergency room alternative for an on-site claim. Telehealth offers employers a way to cut healthcare costs and respond immediately to an on-the-job injury.

On-Site Workers Comp with Telehealth?

“Fewer health care practices are accepting workers’ compensation cases due to the continuously changing health care insurance climates and the pressures a workers’ comp patient might impose. This impacts workers’ comp firsthand as employers attempt to find treating physicians who will work with their needs. Telemedicine acts as a solution.”
Risk & Insurance

Telemedicine allows clinicians to use digital technologies to provide care without an in-person visit. Smartphones, laptops, and tablets can all be utilized to quickly connect doctors and midlevels to the injured workers at a fraction of the cost of the traditional visit. This year there will be seven million telehealth encounters around the United States, according to NCCI.

A 2017 survey of workers comp professionals showed that 45% believe telehealth applications could hold the key to employer cost-cutting. Risk & Insurance predicts the U.S. telemedicine market is expected to grow annually by six percent to reach almost $7 billion by 2020.

Telehealth offers an alternative for job-site medical care. For remote or late-night workers, having a clinician come to them via a virtual visit is far preferable to an evening run to the ER. Remote workers in the oil and gas industry, transportation, manufacturing, and construction, can all benefit from an on-demand immediate clinical response to a workers compensation claim.

Initial injury evaluations, follow-up appointments, and even in-person wellness training can all be conducted by using telehealth. OrthoLive’s experience in these situations shows that the cost reductions are phenomenal; typically a 300% savings over the traditional approach.

Claims Journal suggests telehealth applications can extend beyond an immediate response to injury but can also help provide better care outcomes and lower costs for telerehab. Conducting virtual physical therapy with a construction worker, for example, would cut the time spent traveling to and from a clinical treatment facility. Rehab can be done from any digital device, including virtual workout supervision in a HIPAA-compliant virtual interaction.


Benefits of Workers Comp and Telehealth

“Technology, cost, and demand make the case for virtual visits.”
Melissa McGarry

The Safety National Casualty Corp suggests that telehealth could be applied in workers compensation cases in a number of ways, including:

  • Triage, where a nurse or midlevel would interview the patient, observe the accident site, and make clinical recommendations for the next step.
  • Follow up treatment, including medical refills and patient monitoring could completely eliminate the need to travel for care.
  • Specialist evaluations could improve time to care and eliminate wait times.

Melissa McGarry in WorkCompWire suggests some of the following benefits to providing workers comp via a kiosk or laptop on the job site:

  • Telehealth can be on-demand 24/7/365.
  • Telehealth can improve the time to initial evaluation response rate to injury.
  • Telehealth applications can decrease the overall job injury rate by a clinician being able to directly observe the work environment that led to the injury. This also allows a more specific and safer return to work judgment or decision (verses a job description or a generic "5-10 lbs. lifting").
  • It brings the doctor directly to the patient, reducing travel time to a hospital.
  • It can potentially keep employees on the job longer and improve return to work rates.
  • Telehealth cuts the overall spend on orthopedic-related illnesses.
  • Improves the efficiency for a case manager standpoint; telehealth eliminates driving around town to various MD's with injured employees.
  • Employee satisfaction can improve.
  • Employee engagement in wellness and injury prevention programs can improve.
  • It can even improve the speed and accuracy of documentation for workers comp providers by immediately providing the worker or employer with the documentation they need (versus waiting for notes or a transcription from an in-person office visit).

For the construction worker, having a telemedicine orthopedic specialist “on site’ by kiosk or laptop – immediately – can mean the difference between hours spent waiting in the ER over a more appropriate response. If there is an athletic trainer, physical or occupational therapist or safety director on-site, they can help facilitate the exam, as well. Follow-up treatment can also occur via a virtual visit, whether it’s physical therapy or post-operative care. Remote monitoring of the patient can help healthcare providers monitor complex or high-risk conditions. This can help prevent re-injury or other complications.

Telehealth can remove transportation barriers which means fewer missed appointments and less time-off from the job. Risk & Insurance states:

In workers’ compensation, telemedicine can eliminate the need for emergency room visits (and their expensive bills), cut down on transportation expenditure, provide crisis intervention due to on-the-spot care and more.

Offering telemedicine as part of a worker’s compensation program at the time of injury improves access to on-demand care. It can reduce unnecessary workplace absences and cut down on expensive ER visits. Combining technology with clinical support holds real promise for our overburdened healthcare systems and for employers interested in cutting costs.

OrthoLive Offers Telehealth for Workers Comp

“Telemedicine has the potential to be another tool in the claims adjuster’s toolbox, which might help contain costs and improve outcomes in workers compensation.”
Robert Moss

OrthoLive offers an end-to-end solution for workers compensation cases, offering:

  • Scheduling and attendance monitoring.
  • Virtual on-site clinical initial assessments that provide a fast, on-demand response to injury via kiosk or tablet.
  • Physical therapy for ongoing care
  • Injury prevention and wellness campaigns.

Our team utilizes one of the largest physical therapy and orthopedic triage networks in the country to provide these services as an alternative to more costly approaches to workers compensation. We can target these services geographically, targeting specific areas with the goal of reducing workers compensation costs, or nationwide, depending on the client need. These services are offered via a low-cost monthly subscription to our clients.

At OrthoLive, we believe that technology can improve the lives of our patients while cutting the increasingly exorbitant costs of providing care in the U.S. While telehealth is not appropriate for every visit, this technology has finally given us a proven methodology for improving care for both employers and employees.

Contact our team to add telehealth to your worker’s compensation benefits.

Topics: "telehealth", "telemedicine", workers compensation, telemedicine cost, construction

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