Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, telemedicine has transformed from a fairly new concept to an essential form of treatment for public education employees. The TASB Risk Management Fund (Fund) has seen a dramatic increase in the use of telemedicine for employee injury claims among members. Learn more about this shift in usage and how to get started using telemedicine at your organization.
The progression of telemedicine for workers’ compensation
In 2018, the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act began allowing medical providers to treat injured employees using telemedicine. In 2019, the Fund launched a pilot program with five member organizations to use telemedicine for Workers’ Compensation visits. The number of member districts using this option for care increased from 13 to 59 between March and May, with a total of 385 telemedicine visits among members.
“The biggest benefit of telemedicine during this time was that [member employees] still had access to medical care when everything was shut down,” said TASB Medical Director Brian Buck, MD. “It was easy to request an appointment through a simple phone call or online request, and there were essentially little to no wait periods.”
Adapting to new needs
Since March, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has been evaluating the situation and expanding telemedicine options. While most telemedicine visits among Fund members during the pandemic have been with physicians, there were also some visits to psychologists and physical therapy clinics. Since April 13, when TDI implemented COVID-19 emergency rules, members have also been able to access physical therapy treatment for Workers’ Compensation injuries through telemedicine, also known as telerehabilitation or telerehab.
“Previously, the Division of Workers’ Compensation didn’t allow telerehab at all. After the disaster began, they relaxed those rules and allowed physical therapy through a telerehab method,” Buck said.
Although not many members have taken advantage of it yet, telerehab is an opportunity for patients to continue seeing a licensed physical therapist without fear of exposure to COVID-19.
“The therapist, in most cases, is able to complete a thorough evaluation and teach the injured employee how to perform needed exercises,” said TASB Utilization Manager Nancy Kunschik. “They are able to observe the employee performing therapy via videoconferencing and provide immediate feedback. The therapist is able to encourage the employee in routinely performing a home exercise program.”
Telemedicine provides for safe, effective COVID-19 screening
Telemedicine provides a safe and convenient option for screening employees who have concerns regarding a potential work-related COVID-19 exposure. Through telemedicine, medical providers are able to effectively and safely screen concerned employees and determine if COVID-19 testing is appropriate. Telemedicine providers can also provide efficient follow-up medical treatment for employees who suffer mild-to-moderate symptoms. If you have questions about the coronavirus and the workplace, read this list of six common questions about coronavirus and Workers’ Compensation exposures.
Get started using telemedicine
In addition to avoiding exposure to COVID-19, telemedicine offers many other benefits for members, such as faster access to care and less lost time from work. Contact our vetted telemedicine providers, Concentra Telemed or RediMD, for details and to sign up your organization for their services.