Worldwide, telemedicine is a growing option for connecting injured or sick employees with quality medical care from work or home. And now, as public officials urge patients to avoid hospitals and practice social distancing, there is a new surge of interest in using telehealth services to get remote treatment, fill prescriptions and get medical attention during the COVID-19 crisis.
For many businesses, telemedicine can provide fast, convenient, and affordable care for workplace injuries and illnesses. They can also improve their handling of workers compensation claims—and potentially lower costs—provided telemedicine is offered as an option for medical treatment by their workers compensation carrier.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine refers to the practice of caring for patients remotely when the provider and patient are not physically present to meet with each other. A patient in one location can connect to a doctor, nurse, physical therapist or other healthcare provider in another location through a smart phone, tablet, or computer.
The Benefits of Telemedicine
Availability — The best telemedicine services can connect workers with healthcare providers 24/7/365. Telemedicine can also make consultations with specialists possible from remote areas.
Rapid and Convenient On-site Care — Telemedicine enables minor workplace injuries to be quickly triaged and often treated right from the workplace. Physical therapists can provide exercise, postural instructions, and monitor rehabilitation progress, even check on employees while they’re at work.
Affordability — Telemedicine visits cost significantly less than office appointments, urgent care, and emergency room visits. In addition to directly lowering treatment costs, telemedicine can help reduce unnecessary urgent care or emergency visits and improve claims accuracy and management.
Faster Recovery — Telemedicine can put an injured worker on the fast track to recovery. A worker can be quickly treated and placed on a recovery plan—and may never have to leave work. Faster recovery can also increase productivity and cut the duration of a workers compensation case.
Safety — Telemedicine may also be a good alternative when it is not safe to visit a doctor’s office in person, brick and mortar locations are closed, or local healthcare facilities are overwhelmed by an incident such as a pandemic.
Keep in mind that telemedicine is not appropriate for serious injuries and cannot replace emergency room care. Some employees may prefer to receive medical care at a doctor’s office or healthcare facility even when telemedicine is an option. And, in some cases, attorneys representing injured workers may not support the use of telemedicine.
Should your business decide to consider telehealth services for employees, it is important to choose a provider that is in full compliance with current applicable Telehealth State and Federal regulations and laws.
This document is advisory in nature and is offered as a resource to be used together with your professional insurance advisors in maintaining a loss prevention program. It is an overview only, and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with your insurance broker, or for legal, engineering or other professional advice.
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