Using Telemedicine in Workers Compensation

Telemedicine is viewed by many as an opportunity to reduce the cost of medical expenses and promote efficiency in the workers’ compensation system.  While this practice may be new in workers’ compensation claims, it should be something claim management teams look at to reduce the overall costs of a workers’ compensation program.

 

 

What is Telemedicine?

 

According to Wikipedia, telemedicine is “the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations.”

 

 

Telemedicine in Practice

 

The concept of telemedicine is not new.  In fact, it has been used for over a decade in some areas.  By using the technology in the Internet and advances in other telecommunications, medical practitioners have been using “telemedicine” to care for remote patience.  It has also been used for practitioners to connect to others in the medical community to discuss case studies, review patient histories and provide better care.

 

Telemedicine is also being used to address a shortage of general practitioners and other specialists.  In most instances, the use of this service benefits doctors by allowing them to see more patients.  It also benefits patients who are not able to travel to a doctor’s office for a scheduled visit or have a disability that inhibits their mobility.

 

 

Uses of Telemedicine in Workers’ Compensation

 

Given the nature of telemedicine, there are a number of practical applications for this practice in the context of workers’ compensation.  These include the following:

 

  • Reduce the expense of having an on-site medical professional;
  • Allows doctors and triage nurses to assess injured workers from a remote location;
  • Enables medical experts such as radiologists to evaluate images and prepare reports;
  • Uses fully integrated technology to access information on a number of cases.

 

Medicaid and Medicare have also recognized the value and benefits of telemedicine initiatives.  These two important government programs are in the process of evaluating the effectiveness of it as a tool to meet the challenges of the 21st century healthcare system.

 

 

Drawbacks to Effective Telemedicine Programs

 

As is typically the case with new initiatives, it is important to remember that there are drawbacks as the concept gains acceptance.

 

  • Licensing of physicians. Many states are in the process of addressing these issues through regulatory reform and legislative mandates.

 

  • Technological considerations. The key to any successful telemedince program is reliable Internet access for all parties.  This is sometimes an issue with people living in remote locations or from a lower socio-economic status.

 

  • Patient satisfaction. While telemedicine allows people to communicate and see the person they are talking to, there is sometimes the lack of a personal touch people have grown to expect when receiving medical care and treatment.  Addressing these comfort levels in the context of the adversarial workers’ compensation system is important.

 

 

Conclusion

 

While there are some drawbacks, such as in-person contact, the use of telemedicine can improve the quality of care and reduce the costs in a workers’ compensation program.  It is worth the time for any serious claim management team to investigate their options in this area and determine if changes can be made to meet the needs of all stakeholders.

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. He is an expert in employer communication systems and helps employers reduce their workers comp costs by 20% to 50%. He resides in the Boston area and works as a Qualified Loss Management Program provider working with high experience modification factor companies in the Massachusetts State Risk Pool.  As the senior editor of Amaxx’s publishing division, Michael is on the cutting edge of innovation and thought leadership in workers compensation cost containment. http://reduceyourworkerscomp.com/about/.  Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

Discussion

  1. Thanks for sharing. I think telemedicine is a great concept and with current pace of technological advance, soon it will easily rival regular doctor visits.

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