Incorporating Telemedicine into Workers’ Compensation Care
Telemedicine is a hot topic with lots of discussion around its potential to favorably impact workers’ compensation by improving medical care access, but to what extent is it actually feasible today? This session at the 2016 National Workers’ Compensation & Disability Conference featured viewpoints from an employer, vendor and carrier.
- Ann Schnure, VP Risk Management – Claims, Macy’s
- Jill Allen, President & CEO, Consumer Health Connections
- Paul Morizzo, Provider Networks Manager, Missouri Employers Mutual
Telemedicine is the next generation of managing injured workers’ medical care and claims. In fact, the telehealth industry is predicted to grow to $34 billion by 2020. Industry experts also estimate that, by 2018, 80% of employers will be offering a telehealth benefit to employees.
The industry has been slow to embrace telehealth, possibly due to worries that employees will not want to do it, the installation of equipment will be costly, or the preconceived notion that today’s telemedicine product are only for triage.
Macy’s uncovered that injured employees sent to occupational clinics were returning to work without attending follow-up visits. Employee excuses ranged from no time, limited transportation and that they were recovered, so did not feel the need. Macy’s wanted to fix these problems. They reviewed several telehealth options that either did not work for their employee population or to where they couldn’t justify the ROI.
There are options available specific to workers’ compensation, however, that rely on commonly-used technology, such as a smart phone and computer with a camera/speaker. The employer needs an implementation plan with a vendor partner who can help to get the right approach for the organization.
It is a common misconception that telehealth is only for first aid. There are a lot of workers’ comp injuries that can be treated through telehealth, including:
- Allergic reactions, rashes
- Burns, bites, stings,
- Sprains, strains
- Bruises, cuts, scrapes
- Corneal abrasions
- Medication management
- Post-op checks
Telehealth offers cost-effective results. According to employer claim data, the standard injured worker case over a six-month period yielded an average of 10 filed case management visits and costs an average of $2,500. With a telepresence, 70% of physician visits were handled virtually, eliminating 50% of the costs associated with travel and wait time and 90% of patients reported being “highly satisfied” with the virtual care.
This is the next generation of medical triage. It provides immediate engagement, accuracy and automated care coordination, with cost-effective, better results. Old models are in jeopardy and the status quo will not survive.
The employer will need stakeholder buy in – sell it as a benefit and make it easy. The employer will also need the space to set up a designated area with a stable internet connection to support the software needed. Finally, the employer will need to work with human resources to establish policies and an orientation process.
There are several benefits to the employer, especially related to employee engagement and empowerment:
- Employers get the opportunity to play a more significant role in their employees’ healthcare.
- By offering convenient access to health professionals, employees are less likely to miss work, or take time off to get the care that they need.
- Corporations can lower overall downstream costs and mitigate the potential for lower workplace productivity.
- Telemedicine can serve as a genuine catalyst for employees to take a more active role in improving and maintaining their own health.
There are several benefits to occupational medicine telemedicine:
- It transfers the responsibility of making initial medical decisions from employer to a trained medical professional.
- It reduces unnecessary utilization of expensive treatment options like ER and Urgent Care.
- It keeps employees on site – eliminating costly travel and lost productivity for both supervisors and staff.
- It improves communication between employees, employers and physicians, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
Missouri Employers Mutual offers telemedicine services non-emergent issues through five easy steps:
- Submit an online request.
- Log in to Vidyo (video conferencing software).
- Enter an exam room and wait until the representative joins the connection.
- The representative will join, get a brief medical history and connect the employee to the provider.
- Once connected, the provider will review the medical history, perform the exam, suggest and review a plan of care, and answer any questions the employee may have.
The employer and the insurer both receive post-visit paperwork. The employee returns to work within one hour, the physician notes/dictation arrives within 24 hours and the invoice will arrive within 30 days. 1% of treated employees required additional in-person visits, 95% returned to work the same day and 99% returned to work within three days.