Technologies in Workers’ Compensation: Telehealth

Dec 10, 2018

 

The rising use of telehealth has made its way into the workers’ compensation arena thanks to possible cost-saving strategies along with effective delivery of care. Telehealth refers to the use of telecommunications technologies for the delivery of clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, and public health and health administration.[1] Through telehealth technologies, patients may receive health care through live video-conferencing between a patient and care provider, store-and-forward methods wherein transmission of a recorded health history is given to a health practitioner, remote patient monitoring, or the use of connected electronic tools to record personal health and medical data in one location for review by a provider in another location, and mobile health, a growing industry of health care provided through mobile devices.

Mitchell, a provider of technology, connectivity, and information solutions conducted a survey of workers’ compensation professionals to gauge which technologies are viewed favorable in terms of impact on the workers’ compensation industry.[2] From the study, 45% of respondents reported they believed telemedicine would have the biggest impact on the industry and more than 24% of the respondents reported they were likely to adopt such technologies in the next five years.

Efficiencies & Cost-Savings

The use of telehealth in workers’ compensation cases can effectively reduce costs and increase convenience factors in cases. As medical benefits for lost time continue to increase in claims, telehealth solutions are a viable alternative that deserve a second-look in terms of claims management. In a practical sense, telehealth may be an efficient method of care delivery for:

  • Routine follow-up visits
  • Access to specialists who may not practice locally
  • Remote patient monitoring for high-risk patients
  • On-site alternative to emergency department for less serious injuries

The use of telehealth can also result in a potential savings in Medicare Set-Asides. By establishing a treatment pattern of telehealth visits, in some circumstances, the overall cost of a Medicare Set-Aside may be reduced. By allowing the option for injured workers to utilize these methods of care, telehealth can reduce costs and duration of a claim while improving efficiency. As the technology improves, the use of telehealth is likely to become increasingly prevalent in claims and a preferred method of care delivery for routine cases.

Potential Downsides

As with any other technology, there is certainly room for improvement in telehealth and its application to the workers’ compensation arena. Limitations exist in the use of telehealth that may prove difficulty or impossibility in its use in the progression of workers’ compensation claims. One such limitation is language barriers between non-English-speaking injured workers and English-speaking providers. Though the use of interpreters in clinical settings has substantially increased in the last few years, the use of interpreting in telehealth requires an extra step in the care delivery process that may counter its effectiveness.

Another potential barrier is the cooperation needed between defense counsel and petitioners’ attorneys. At times, petitioners’ attorneys may be hesitant to allow or wholly against the use of nurse case management in claims. Since telehealth allows injured workers to remotely access medical care, the need for nurse case management may arise and become a barrier to a comprehensive use of it.

As the healthcare industry moves towards, not away from, innovative healthcare solutions, the increased use of telehealth in the workers’ compensation industry is inevitable. Our attorneys can help you navigate the unique issues surrounding the use of telehealth in your workers’ compensation claims.

 

The NBKL blog is provided for informational purposes; we are not giving legal advice or creating an attorney/client relationship by providing this information.  Before relying on any legal information of a general nature, you may consider consulting legal counsel as to your particular facts and applications of the law.

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