The spread of the COVID-19 virus is currently causing a rise in the use of telemedicine in workers’ compensation cases. Though this is being done primarily out of necessity, to abide by social distancing guidelines, it is a positive change for both injured workers and medical providers.
With both patients and providers becoming more comfortable with telemedicine technology, its use could potentially bring big changes to the workers’ compensation system. Even after the pandemic subsides, telemedicine could be advantageous to all parties.
California Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you have recently suffered injuries in a work accident, a workers’ compensation attorney can help you get the benefits that you deserve. At Kneisler and Schondel, we know what it takes to fight for our clients’ rights. With many years of experience handling many different types of workers’ compensation cases, our attorney has the skills to take on your case.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunications technology by healthcare professionals to diagnose, evaluate, and treat patients from a distance. As technology has progressed through the years, telemedicine has become more common as a tool in the healthcare industry.
Healthcare professionals can use telemedicine to meet a variety of patient needs. It is becoming increasingly easy to use, as patients can use simple programs and applications on their computers or phones for their virtual appointments. Different medical providers have different programs, so if telemedicine is an option with your medical providers, you will be able to learn more about the specific process to use.
What Can Telemedicine Be Used For?
Doctors and healthcare professionals can use telemedicine to triage injuries, as well as conducting follow up visits and providing rehabilitation services. Of course, serious injuries should be evaluated immediately by a doctor.
Telemedicine may not be appropriate for every type of work injury, but there are many injuries that can be examined virtually. For example, doctors can evaluate a patient’s range of motion and observe swelling and bruising to make a treatment recommendation and diagnosis. Medication management and specialist consultations can also be done virtually in some cases.
What are the Benefits of Telemedicine for Injured Workers?
There are many different benefits of using telemedicine for all patients, including injured workers. In many workers’ compensation cases, injured workers suffer serious injuries that can make it difficult to get out the door and drive to medical appointments. Through the use of telemedicine, they can remain at home and not have to over-exert themselves, getting around to numerous medical appointments.
Workers’ compensation patients also tend to have many different rehabilitation and follow-up visits to get to throughout their recovery. If an injured worker is unable to drive themselves to their appointments on their own, it can be difficult for them to consistently get a family member or friend’s help to get to their appointments.
Since telemedicine appointments can be done at home, these patients will have an easier time attending all of these scheduled visits. By keeping up with all of the recommended rehabilitation visits and follow-up visits, injured workers may even be able to recover sooner than they would if they had to attend each visit in person without reliable transportation.
Telemedicine also offers patients other benefits, such as less time away from work, no traveling expenses, less interference with other responsibilities (such as child or elder care), more privacy, and less exposure to potentially contagious patients.
Can a QME Be Conducted Via Telemedicine?
If your case (or a portion of it) is disputed, you may need to be evaluated by another doctor, called a QME. The term QME stands for “qualified medical evaluator.” If you have a workers’ compensation attorney, and they and the insurance company agree upon a physician to perform the evaluation regarding a disputed aspect of your case, then that doctor is called an AME.
Under current California rules in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a QME or AME may reschedule any currently scheduled in-person medical-legal appointments. The rescheduled evaluations shall take place within a 90-day period after the date that the statewide stay-at-home order is lifted, as well as any similar local order.
Additionally, at this time, some QMEs may be conducted through the use of telemedicine. Telemedicine evaluations can be done in cases where a physical examination is not required.
The QME physician may conduct an interview with the injured worker either by video conferencing or telephone. After the statewide stay-at-home order and similar orders are lifted, the QME may then conduct a face-to-face evaluation.