Telemedicine – The Newest Tool in Workers’ Compensation Claims Management

Meghan Dickerson, CET, Director of Risk Control
When one of your employees is injured on the job, the first and most important thing to do is to assess the injured worker’s condition and whether medical care is needed. Providing quality care swiftly is the number one action that companies can do to control claims costs, with the second being to report claims immediately. If you have someone on staff who is first aid certified, you may be able to assess the injured worker’s condition and provide first aid care without any outside assistance. However, often employees have more peace of mind when an independent third party does the evaluation. Similarly, having a third party assess your employee may pose less risk for you as the employer as well.

In the past, companies have had two other options: use an occupational medical clinic to assess injuries and provide care, or have a mobile triage company come out to the jobsite to provide care. In both cases first aid could be provided and billed directly to the employer when appropriate. However, both options have downsides.

  1. Wait Time: Having injured workers treated at an occupational medical clinic means driving to a clinic location and waiting, often for up to an hour, to be seen. If your policy is to have a supervisor accompany your employee to the clinic, now that person is losing several hours of productivity as well. Mobile triage companies solve some of this problem by coming to your location which means the employee can rest comfortably at the job site while waiting. However, it still takes time for these resources to be deployed. This can be both frustrating and costly.
  2. Cost: Clinics are in the business of providing medical care, and most of them do a great job. But statistically, it is more likely that employees who are seen in the clinic environment will need to be seen again. Mobile triage companies also provide great care, with an emphasis on treating with first aid whenever possible and only sending employees to the clinic if medical care if needed. However, these services can be even more costly than clinics because the resources come to you.

Virtual triage, a new option, has recently become available for employers that eliminates these downsides in certain situations. There are various types of virtual triage. Many companies provide telephonic nurse triage while others provide certified doctors available via video chat.  Some telemedicine vendors will coordinate with your workers’ compensation insurance provider. Often they will bill the claim directly for their services and may even be able to report claims for you. Others contract directly with employers.

In all cases, the care is immediate, without any wait time for employees or time off for supervisors, and the cost is typically about half of what a mobile triage company would cost. Best of all, guesswork is eliminated for the employer and employee because virtual triage companies use licensed medical professionals to direct self-care whenever possible, and direct your employee to a clinic right away when self-care is not appropriate. Typically, these providers are also recording the conversation (with the employee’s permission) and filling out an accident report that can be used to file a claim if needed.

There are still many situations in which a visit to a clinic or an in-person assessment done by a mobile triage company is the best option. But for many injuries, virtual triage is fast, affordable, thorough, and efficient, giving your injured employee the ability to address the condition quickly and get back to work safely.