At the 2015 Workers’Compensation Educational Conference in Orlando, a panel discussed telemedicine and its potential application in the workers’ compensation space. The panel consisted of:
- Bill Lewis, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Concentra Medical Centers
- Steve Shaya, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Health Net Connect
- Sri Mummaneni, M.D., Chief Health Officer, Opus Telehealth
Telemedicine is being utilized more and more in healthcare models throughout the United States:
- 59% of large employers are expected to offer telemedicine in 2015
- Many national health plans offer telemedicine to employers
- The VA and Department of Defense have adopted telemedicine.
- 43 Medicaid programs currently reimburse some forms of telemedicine services
In spite of this, workers’ compensation has been a slow adopter of telemedicine.
Are we addressing patient needs?
- 37% of rural patients do not have easy access to medical care, which is something telemedicine helps to resolve.
- Telemedicine would also allow a primary physician to immediately consult with an specialist during the appointment. This would significantly speed up treatment delivery to the patient.
- Consumers are gaining awareness with telehealth and mHealth options and have interest in using them for individual health and as a means for their health providers to have up-to-the-minute updates on their health status.
- Chronic disease management is increasingly reliant on telehealth tools to engage the patient and provider.
How can we enhance relationship with key stakeholders?
- Employers, payers, and providers are interested in partnering to improve efficient, quality care.
- Providers find efficiencies with telehealth visits, which allows them to see more patients due to less time needed for patient evaluations.
- According to a recent Kaiser Permanente study, patient satisfaction increases.
What is the risk versus return?
- Data security is a significant concern in telehealth. All providers should be HPPA compliant. There is a lot of confusion around this because there are some consumer grade products out there that do not provide the necessary level of security. Any services that are healthcare provider grade will have strong security built in.
- One large advantages of telehealth includes the ability to control the use of medications. A remote device can dispense the medications, which could help to ensure patients are taking medications at the appropriate times. This can also cut down on opioid abuse.
- Physicians are significantly able to reduce the time they spend with patients on follow-up visits, which adds efficiency for both the physician and the patient.
- The VA is utilizing telehealth for on-demand counseling with the hope of reducing the high suicide rate among veterans.
What is the financial impact?
- The program can potentially minimize the need for employees to leave work, which improves productivity.
- Telemedicine may eliminate the need for an in-office visit and shorten the duration of a claim.
- The financial impact is not about reducing a medical visit to a cheap rate. Consider the patient experience and engagement along with the productivity factors.
- If a 5-star provider is engaged via telehealth when the alternative is a 1-star provider, the returns are tremendous across claims costs, return to work, litigation and medical.
Telehealth will soon be considered a standard care model for healthcare. The digital health era is affording employers, payers and providers to consider new data with which to drive well care and impact the sick population of patients in addition to significantly improving patient engagement and experience. The workers’ compensation industry should embrace telehealth and pick out the key areas where it will add benefits to the system.