Telemedicine is viewed by many as an opportunity to reduce the cost of medical expenses and promote efficiency in the workers’ compensation system. While this practice may be new in workers’ compensation claims, it should be something claim management teams look at to reduce the overall costs of a workers’ compensation program.
What is Telemedicine?
According to Wikipedia, telemedicine is “the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations.”
Telemedicine in Practice
The concept of telemedicine is not new. In fact, it has been used for over a decade in some areas. By using the technology in the Internet and advances in other telecommunications, medical practitioners have been using “telemedicine” to care for remote patience. It has also been used for practitioners to connect to others in the medical community to discuss case studies, review patient histories and provide better care.
Telemedicine is also being used to address a shortage of general practitioners and other specialists. In most instances, the use of this service benefits doctors by allowing them to see more patients. It also benefits patients who are not able to travel to a doctor’s office for a scheduled visit or have a disability that inhibits their mobility.
Uses of Telemedicine in Workers’ Compensation
Given the nature of telemedicine, there are a number of practical applications for this practice in the context of workers’ compensation. These include the following:
- Reduce the expense of having an on-site medical professional;
- Allows doctors and triage nurses to assess injured workers from a remote location;
- Enables medical experts such as radiologists to evaluate images
and prepare reports;
- Uses fully integrated technology to access information on a number of cases.
Medicaid and Medicare have also recognized the value and benefits of telemedicine initiatives. These two important government programs are in the process of evaluating the effectiveness of it as a tool to meet the challenges of the 21st century healthcare system.