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VIRTUAL CARE SERVICES
When CorVel Corp. created its Virtual Care Services clinic — an expansion of its telehealth platform — adoption was slow, and the third-party administrator never expected a pandemic would change the course of its acceptance and demand.
But that’s exactly what happened, as COVID-19 pushed the need for telehealth to the forefront, said David Lupinsky, Sacramento, Calif.-based vice president of medical review services at CorVel. “It really created this opportunity for both providers and patients to force them into the medium. I think it’s forever changed the health care space,” he said.
In 2014, CorVel was among the early entrants into the workers compensation telehealth space. When the TPA saw the effectiveness of triaging injuries remotely, it expanded on the model.
Virtual Health Services, a winner of a 2020 Business Insurance Innovation Award, is a full-fledged virtual clinic that connects triage to the telehealth order and follow up and allows CorVel to “manage cases longitudinally,” which can include the initial triage, medical evaluation, pharmacy, rehabilitation and ancillary services, behavioral health and other related services, Mr. Lupinsky said of the technology that replaces “an occupational clinic in the virtual space.”
Once the pandemic hit, providers that had previously been unwilling to move to telehealth quickly embraced the platform to interact with their patients, and patients were able to see their providers without being concerned about possible exposure to the coronavirus, leading to a 1,000% increase in visit numbers, he said.
The 24/7 nature of the virtual clinic often allows for a bypass of the emergency room when a worker is injured, and in many cases enables the medical provider to virtually examine the worker, set a work restriction and allow him or her to return to work — all on the employer’s job site, he said. Cases that start and end in telehealth can cut costs by close to 50%, according to CorVel’s statistics.
The virtual clinic’s triage approach at the front end can also “change the trajectory” of a claim, Mr. Lupinsky said.
“In the triage model, we require nurses to make an empathetic statement: We want to get you to the right level of care,” he said. Placing the emphasis on the worker’s well-being up front — and not asking questions to make a determination of compensability right away or discussing medical costs — has led to a 60% reduction in litigation rates, he said.
Insurers, brokers, technology companies and others continue to roll out new products and services during the COVID-19 pandemic and in many cases the new offerings specifically address issues that risk managers face due to coronavirus-related concerns and restrictions.