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Risk in Context

Looking to Cut Your Workers’ Comp. Medical Costs? Consider Telemedicine

Posted by Christine Williams February 24, 2017

How can you deliver high-quality medical care to employees at a low cost? One potential solution: telemedicine, which can help medical providers offer effective care to injured employees. It could be the difference between good and bad claims outcomes.

How Telemedicine Works

Using telemedicine, medical providers can diagnose and treat patients remotely via a web conference, phone, or other technology. In workers’ compensation, this means that an employee can speak or visually interact with a doctor or nurse shortly after an injury has occurred.

The medical professional can obtain the injured worker’s medical history and a description of the accident and assess his/her pain level. Using such information, the provider would recommend treatment, which could be as simple as self-administered first-aid care. In some cases, a visit to a physician would be required; in some states, a medical professional can direct or channel the injured worker to an in-network provider.

Another way for employers to deliver such timely care to injured workers is through an onsite clinic. But that often requires significant investments in infrastructure or personnel. With telemedicine, however, a similar connection can be made through the web or by phone — with the upfront costs potentially limited to a single, onsite computer.

Weighing Telemedicine’s Value

Although there are clear benefits to telemedicine in workers’ compensation, its use can be limited. Not every injury can be treated via telemedicine; for example, life-threatening or other serious injuries could require immediate emergency room treatment. When making decisions related to telemedicine, employers should consider several factors, including:

  • Quality: Look for telemedicine vendors with strong track records and high user satisfaction rates.
  • Pricing: Compare the services offered by competing providers in detail, including pricing for primary care and specialty services.
  • Access: Consider whether most employees already have good access to care and if urgent/emergency room care use is high. Also take into account how tech-savvy your employees are.
  • Delivery model: Determine how telemedicine services can be delivered to your employees, along with the communications channels — such as video and email — that are available to employees receiving care.

For more on this topic, listen to the replay of our recent Workers’ Compensation Center of Excellence webcast, How Technology Can Affect Your Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Safety Programs.

Related to:  Workers' Compensation

Christine Williams