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Nearing two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the booming use of and access to telemedicine is here to stay, according to John Ruser, president and CEO of the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
Legislative and regulatory actions at the federal and state level continue to address the process and reimbursement of telemedicine services.
“With the future of telemedicine yet to be observed, the utilization and prices of medical services delivered via telemedicine remain important measures to monitor in workers compensation,” Mr. Ruser said in a statement.
In a new report, WCRI examined how telemedicine services are being used in workers compensation and the prices paid for these services, finding that the costs are relatively the same as in-person care.
The Telemedicine: Patterns of Use and Reimbursement report found substantial interstate variation in the share of claims having their first office visit via telemedicine rather than in person, varying between 1% and 11%.
In a typical state, about 4% of claims with evaluation and management had their first office visit as telemedicine, the report states. Evaluating workers with sprains and strains, 6% initiated their evaluation and management care via telemedicine, compared with 3% for workers with traumatic injuries.
WCRI notes that the setting of the initial evaluation and management service is an important factor in explaining the use of telemedicine for follow-up services. If a patient had the initial office visit via telemedicine, about 65% of all follow-up visits for that patient were provided as telemedicine. In contrast, on average only 3% of all follow-up visits were provided via telemedicine for patients with initial in-person visits.
Telemedicine, cited in a recent survey as having had the largest impact on workers compensation during the COVID-19 pandemic, appears poised to keep growing even as states reopen, experts say.