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Telemedicine Controls Workers Comp Costs in Home Care and Hospice

Posted by James Baker, Chief Medical Officer | October 16, 2019 |
James Baker, Chief Medical Officer

There are more than 4.5 million direct care workers in the United States today. Providing direct care to patients in their homes via a home care agency or hospice is a strenuous activity for workers. Many of these patients require assistance with their physical mobility, which places the healthcare provider at risk for occupational injury.

The injury rates for homecare and hospice workers are fully 50% higher than in hospitals. As a result, home care and hospice providers face some of the highest workers’ compensation costs in the nation. But telemedicine can provide immediate on the job triage for the injured healthcare provider, cutting down on costly ER visits, helping home care and hospice organizations lessen their workers’ compensation claims, and getting workers back on the job faster.

Occupational Injuries for Direct Care Providers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average on the job injury rate for all occupations in the U.S. is 100 per 10,000 workers. However, the annual on the job injury rate per 10,000 direct care workers is:

  • 144 injuries among personal care aides;
  • 116 injuries among home health aides;
  • And 337 among nursing assistants.

While these rates are substantially higher than in other industries, the numbers are even 50% higher than in hospital settings, according to the BLS.

Direct care workers enter a patient’s home to provide treatment. These traveling aides enter unfamiliar homes to care for sick, disabled, or elderly patients and can be injured by a fall or by overexertion when repositioning their clients. They could also be injured by the patient or even a pet. Some of the most common injuries in these cases are strains, sprains, tears, soreness, and pain. One study suggested direct care workers could almost be expected to have higher injury rates due to the nature of the job:

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“Characteristics of home health work, including increased intensity and speed of work, adverse working conditions, and the necessity of motor vehicle transportation as a condition of work may be contributors to injury in this setting.”

According to PHI, Certified Nursing Assistants are three times more likely to be at risk of workplace injury because they typically assist multiple patients during their shift. CNAs working in nursing homes may lift or reposition 20 patients a day, whereas the home care worker may visit one or two homes during the day.

Given the startling prominence of these numbers, it’s no wonder the cost of workers compensation insurance is one of the most significant expenses that home care and hospice organizations face today.

Direct and Indirect Costs of Workers Comp Claims

There are typically several direct and indirect costs associated with each workers compensation claims:

  • Direct costs could include a hospital stay or an ER visit, surgery, doctor visit, physical therapy, medications, and lost wages during the employee’s time off from the on the job injury.
  • Indirect costs could entail a staffing shortage due to the employee taking time off work. Normal activities could be curtailed as a claim investigation occurs. The homecare or hospice may accrue the costs of overtime pay to cover the injured worker’s caseload or the need for temporary workers to fulfill duties. There is also the risk of litigation when any worker is injured on the job.

Given the high costs of workers compensation claims in the direct care industry, is there a way for these providers to lessen both their risk and their financial obligation?

Telemedicine Reduces Workers Comp Costs in Home Care and Hospice

Telemedicine provides remote workers with a tool to access medical treatment on site when the injury happens by using the video technology embedded in your smartphone. OrthoLive offers home care and hospice providers an easy to use app that leverages a national network of healthcare clinicians that can provide immediate triage to the injured worker in real-time. These professionals are trained to be the first point of contact to triage an on the job injury, including conducting concussion protocols to determine if the aide is safe to continue working. Today, these care providers can be leveraged 24/7 to provide fast on-site triage to injured homecare or hospice workers.

The OrthoLive telemedicine on-call network can provide these same techniques to an injured homecare or hospice worker. The benefit is that these on-call professionals can consult with the direct care provider to determine if the injury is severe enough to visit an ER or urgent care. Without telemedicine, if a worker is injured, they typically need to leave to go to seek treatment. This could take hours. In the meantime, what happens to the home care or hospice patient?

Telemedicine technology brings the clinical care provider directly to the injured worker, providing immediate treatment. The Insurance Journal points out:

“With telemedicine, the worker has immediate access to care and therefore the healing process can begin more quickly than if the treatment is extended due to wait times or distance concerns.”

Telemedicine can also help with workers comp investigations by allowing the worker to quickly and efficiently document the scene where the incident occurred.

Critical to any workers’ compensation claim is the obligation to report and document the incident quickly. Telemedicine allows workers to connect immediately with a supervisor and document via cellphone video the scene where the incident occurred. Management can then upload the video quickly to their insurance carrier. Studies correlate faster reporting with lower claim costs because the insurer can respond promptly to initiate the investigation. This could lessen the amount of time the injured worker is sidelined during the investigation, so they can get back to work more quickly.

The ultimate benefit is that home care and hospice can save time and money with the use of telemedicine. Typically, a triage call with OrthoLive is more cost-effective than sending an injured worker to the ER or urgent care.

One workers’ compensation claim can cost you thousands. Talk to the OrthoLive team today about our HIPAA-compliant telemedicine subscription service to respond immediately to worker injuries and cut costs in your homecare or hospice.

Topics: "telemedicine", workers compensation, home care, hospice, workers comp

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