How Telehealth Impacts Workers' Compensation

March 31, 2020


Rebecca Batisto
How Telehealth Impacts Workers' Compensation

Have you ever had a video conference about your sore throat? Do you have a doctor whom you’ve never met in person and probably never will? Have you ever been diagnosed without leaving your couch?

Telehealth is no longer the future-tripping stuff of science fiction; it’s here and growing in accessibility and acceptance. Telehealth, sometimes called telemedicine, allows patients to connect remotely with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers to diagnose and treat issues. Caregivers can order tests, prescribe medications, and refer patients to other physicians should that be necessary.

Once a service reserved for remote areas or economically-challenged countries, telehealth is becoming widely accepted, and even covered by many insurance providers. While you may never shake hands with your doctor, you can avoid stuffy waiting rooms, as well as having to wait weeks for an appointment.

Telehealth offers services beyond remote appointments. Patients have access to portals where their pertinent information is available 24/7. Some providers offer smartphone apps and most offer remote monitoring through wearable devices. These technologies can assess if someone has fallen or is in need of assistance and summon help, improving their health care outcomes immensely.

Telehealth And Workers’ Compensation

Following an injury at work and initial treatment, the key to recovery is the patient’s commitment to rehabilitation and sticking to the protocol prescribed. Too often, this is where the healing slows as patients face various roadblocks in accessing treatments. From the inability to travel to doctors’ offices to having a tough time securing appointments at convenient times, employees face logistic challenges on the road to recovery and in returning to work.

The growing availability of telehealth is knocking down these barriers, making necessary care accessible right from home. Not only are appointments easier to keep, but caregivers can also see patients more often, therefore keeping better tabs on their recovery while making necessary adjustments along the way.

Telehealth care models hold the potential to make care readily accessible immediately following the injury through recovery and helping the employee return to work. More states are accepting telehealth as approved vehicles for treatment for workers’ compensation injuries.

When it comes to treating workplace injuries, telehealth is also breaking down geographic and socio-economic discrepancies, making the same level of care available to all workers. In regards to care, the quality of telehealth increases as physicians become more comfortable with the technology and with diagnosing patients over the Internet. This, coupled with the reduced cost of seeing patients and the increase in remote working situations, is likely to help accelerate adoption in the next several years.

These factors bode well for employees recovering from workplace injuries as they can expect care to become more accessible and less expensive. As adoption increases, more injuries will be able to be treated using telehealth with the hope that a higher percentage of employees will be able to return to work faster. Employers reap the benefits too, with more employees coming back to work and lower costs of care.

Telehealth Concerns

With every new healthcare offering, there are always reservations. The medical industry, including insurance providers, are more comfortable with in-person care, relying on a decades-old system for reliable information. There is a large educational aspect required to adopt an online approach from care providers to patients to insurance companies.

Some barriers include:

  • Low technical comfort on the part of both caregivers and patients.
  • Continuity of record-keeping and sharing between disparate systems.
  • Data security and privacy concerns for online health information.
  • Availability of technical access and associated expenses.

The road to widespread adoption may be bumpy, yet most agree it will transform the healthcare industry. Around the world, people are becoming more comfortable turning to smartphones and the Internet for on-demand information, plus wearable fitness devices are already collecting important health data. The industry seems primed for telehealth to take hold.

Normandy Insurance is on the pulse of workers’ compensation and how it is affected by new technologies and new healthcare services. If you have questions about how telehealth will impact your employees or clients, Normandy is here to help. Contact us today:

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