Apr 04, 2023

Telehealth in Janitorial Workers’ Compensation

Janitorial services cannot be performed remotely – you need to be there in person. When janitorial workers are injured, however, an in-person approach may not be the only option: there’s also telehealth. Telehealth benefits have become common in workers’ compensation claims because the inclusion of these benefits can improve care and claims outcomes.

The Pandemic Prompted a Telehealth Revolution

Telehealth has been around for a while, but it took off during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Medical Association says only 25.1% of physicians worked in a practice that used telehealth in 2018. In 2020, this figure shot up to 79%. According to the American Academy of Actuaries, the pandemic also prompted some insurers to change their processes to accommodate injured workers via telehealth.

The way people receive care has changed. Even though the COVID-19 public health emergency is set to end on May 11, 2023, the prevalence of telehealth will likely continue. In terms of improving workers’ compensation outcomes, this may be a good thing.

Telehealth Can Expedite Care

Janitorial workers often work at night, which is when most doctor’s offices and clinics are closed. Emergency rooms are still open, but emergency room visits are expensive and people who go for anything other than life-threatening conditions may end up waiting for hours just to see a doctor. This means that, for less severe injuries, the emergency room may not be the most convenient or cost-effective option.

Telehealth provides a practical alternative. According to NCCI, a 24/7 telemedicine triage service can be an invaluable resource for employees who are injured during overnight shifts or while working in rural locations that lack nearby health facilities. Thanks to telehealth triage services, workers can immediately undergo an initial assessment and evaluation.

If workers need in-person care, the triage nurse can direct them to this care. If self-care is sufficient, the triage nurse can provide instructions. According to Claims Journal, an analysis of the available data indicates telehealth can help around half of all injured workers avoid unnecessary trips to a clinic.

Improved Follow-Up Care

Telehealth is also suitable for follow-up and continued care.

Imagine you’re a janitorial worker and you’ve broken your leg while working. Getting around town is difficult, so you keep missing your doctor’s appointments. Meanwhile, your leg feels worse. You know you need to see the doctor, but since reaching the clinic is a hassle with an injured leg, you put off going until the pain is unbearable. That’s when you discover your leg is infected and, because you delayed care, the infection is severe.

By providing convenient access to care, telehealth can help injured workers avoid scenarios like this. Telehealth can also facilitate prescription monitoring and care management, thereby improving outcomes. Even musculoskeletal exercises (similar to physical therapy) can be managed through telehealth.

The Downside of Telehealth Care

Telehealth is convenient and often cost effective, but it’s not a miracle cure.

  • Telehealth is not appropriate for all conditions. Sometimes in-person care is necessary. Unfortunately, patients may not always know when to use telehealth and when to see a provider face to face. Providers may also miss symptoms that are less obvious when providing virtual care.
  • Technology can be challenging. Patients often receive telehealth care via video conferencing tools. If the tool doesn’t work properly, it may impact care. For example, if the sound cuts out or the video lags, the patient may not hear an important piece of information. The provider will need to comply with data privacy regulations.
  • Regulations may complicate care. Workers’ compensation is regulated at the state level, meaning rules on telehealth payments can vary between states. Many of these rules have undergone changes in recent years. Risk & Insurance says 30 states have adopted telehealth policies for the workers’ compensation programs since the start of the pandemic. These new rules include payable billing codes, waivers of pre-existing authorization requirements, and additional coverage for physical therapy and occupational therapy.

When leveraged appropriately, telehealth in janitorial workers’ compensation programs can expedite care and reduce overall claims costs and lengths. Having the right insurance partner is also critical.

Tangram’s janitorial and building services workers’ compensation program includes specialized claims handling and nurse triage services. Learn more.