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The use of telemedicine services in Texas surged in the pandemic, and injured workers accounted for the majority of claims, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Workers Compensation Research and Evaluation Group at the Texas Department of Insurance.
Access to telemedicine services in Texas was only expanded for injured workers in 2018. To examine how these services were used and deployed in the COVID-19 pandemic, the TDI report compared their use and cost pre- and mid-pandemic. The report also compared telemedicine use for network and non-network claims.
Pre-pandemic, from Sept. 1, 2018, to March 12, 2020, just 3% of claims that received professional medical services received at least one telemedicine service, totaling 951 claims. From March 13, 2020, to July 31, 2021, the number of telemedicine services rose to 21,086 claims.
Broadly, adults aged 45–54 used the most telemedicine services during the pandemic, the majority of whom were men and injured workers. Office visits were the most frequently used telemedicine service before and during the pandemic. On cost, total payments for telemedicine services increased, and insurers paid about three-fourths of billed services, the report states.
Examining time to treatment, the average number of days from injury to initial telemedicine service was about six to seven weeks from April to September 2020, but decreased in 2021 to about three weeks.
Researchers note they will monitor the utilization and cost of these services as the pandemic continues, and whether these services are being done in medically underserved geographic areas in the state.
The summer surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida began in July, as 4,221 COVID-19 workers compensation indemnity claims were filed — more than six times the number filed in June — and August tallies show a slight drop, according to data released by Wednesday by the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation.