How telemedicine is affecting injured workers in Georgia?
As digital devices have become more commonplace, technology continues to expand at an increasingly fast rate. Now more than ever, people are instantly connected around the globe and can share information at lightning speed.
This expansion of technology has led to the advent of telemedicine, a trend that is rapidly changing the way in which healthcare is addressed.
In the last few years, telemedicine has grown at a rapid pace and is expected to continue growing. Given the way in which the use of telemedicine expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, some people may wonder about how telemedicine will play out in workers’ compensation.
How might they work together?
Does workers’ comp cover telemedicine visits?
In fact, telemedicine is now playing an increasing role in workers’ compensation cases.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine refers to the “use of technological communication to provide healthcare services to individuals without the need for an in-person visit.” The goal of this type of technology is to improve the patient’s health without the need to travel to an office or wait to meet the doctor.
Telemedicine may be used for a variety of purposes, including medication management, follow-up visits, specialist consultations, management of chronic conditions and more. All of these services are provided on a remote basis through audio and video connections. These connections are designed to be completely secure.
How telemedicine works with workers’ compensation
Telemedicine services may be used along with workers’ compensation for virtual face-to-face meetings as well as to provide prescription drug review, measure vital signs remotely and provide alerts and reminders regarding health information.
In some instances, telemedicine may even be used to provide a critical initial assessment and evaluation. It could be particularly beneficial for such situations when there is limited access to medical care on an immediate basis.
As a type of triage service, telemedicine is available around the clock and could be used to provide an initial assessment for an injury occurring during an overnight shift, at a time in which the only other option for assessment would be an emergency room.
Telemedicine might also be used to provide assessment for workers who are in remote or rural locations where there are no available healthcare facilities.
The benefits of telemedicine
Since telemedicine can be used in urban as well as rural areas, the challenges posed by geographical barriers are practically eliminated. As a result of such immediately available healthcare, injured employees may be able to get diagnosed, receive treatment and return to work faster than would otherwise have been possible.
Additionally, patients who suffer from a compromised immune system don’t need to worry about exposure to potentially infectious diseases by physically visiting a doctor’s office. Furthermore, some patients may feel more comfortable in a telemedicine setting and may be more apt to honestly and accurately describe the problems they’re experiencing.
Telemedicine may also be used to provide critical follow-up services, which could be used for providing second opinions regarding the need for surgery or even a follow-up for a postoperative visit. In some cases, injured workers may experience difficulty in accessing specialists. Telemedicine breaks down such issues by providing access to specialized healthcare providers who can monitor patient progress and provide insight into high-risk conditions.
All of this can be accomplished without the need for the patient to travel, thus reducing strain on the patient as well as eliminating expenses for lodging and food. In the event the worker is able to work, telemedicine also avoids the need for missed time from work.
Drawbacks of telemedicine
While the benefits of telemedicine for workers’ compensation are numerous, there are potential risks and limitations, including the risk of equipment failure or signal disruption that could cause a delay or even a missed appointment. Furthermore, some patients may simply be uncomfortable with the concept of a virtual healthcare appointment.
Even more concerning is the potential risk of a cybersecurity threat. As cybersecurity attacks become increasingly common, the risk of jeopardizing the security of medical data can’t be ignored. For this reason alone, many workers may be hesitant to participate in telemedicine.
There is also the concern regarding ambiguous legal regulations in telemedicine visits. In a traditional in-person visit, these protocols are clearly defined. As a result, there could be the potential for a lower quality of care.
Reduced human interaction between healthcare professionals and patients may also lead to diagnostic errors, particularly when there are symptoms present that could occur with multiple different conditions.
Ultimately, the use of technology can potentially lead to workers’ compensation outcomes that are vastly improved and more efficient. Even so, due to the still very-much present risks and limitations, it’s important for claims adjusters as well as medical practitioners to ensure there is a fair balance between face-to-face appointments and telemedicine.
While you aren’t required to hire an attorney to file a workers’ compensation claim, if you feel you aren’t receiving the full benefits due to you or you are displeased with the medical care you receive then you should consider consulting with an attorney who can help to protect your rights.