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Telemedicine is on the rise as providers seek ways to see patients while maintaining safe distances during the COVID-19 pandemic, but new data shows that the upward trend pre-dates 2020, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the National Council on Compensation Insurance.
The Boca Raton, Florida-based ratings agency found that 3.7 out of 1,000 patients saw their providers via remote technology in 2019 — a steady increase up from 1.4 in 2015. NCCI said it expects that number to rise dramatically, in line with overall health care trends, as highlighted in the analysis.
With the pandemic that saw more than 200% increases in telemedicine utilization, such “services have quickly changed from a lesser-used alternative delivery of treatment to a key medical tool,” the report states. “With possible benefits ranging from increasing efficiency of care to making specialists more easily accessible, this emerging option has the potential to positively affect an injured worker’s outcome. Telemedicine also faces limitations, such as the lack of face-to-face assessment, expensive implementation, and potential privacy concerns.”
Aiming to provider “baseline information” on the state of telemedicine services prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, NCCI said in its report that it has been monitoring temporary, emergency changes to state requirements that made it simpler for providers to work with patients remotely. Such changes included loosening technology requirements for providers and addressing fee schedules.
NCCI said it will continue to track the trend.
More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.
At least one state is clearing the way for more telemedicine visits in workers compensation to limit contact between individuals in light of coronavirus quarantines and at least two providers of services for injured workers are increasing remote offerings.