Written by Dr. Dan Carlin and Cal Beyer | January 12, 2024

By Dr. Dan Carlin, CEO of JobSiteCare, and Cal Beyer, Human Capital Risk and Worker Wellbeing Consultant

The construction industry is keenly aware that how it handles insurance and risk management can greatly influence its competitive standing. This is most apparent in the area of workers’ compensation. The Experience Modification Rating (EMR), a critical indicator in contractor prequalification at all construction levels, underscores this reality.

As the industry progresses, integrating innovative approaches like telemedicine for workers compensation is becoming vital, offering new strategies for risk management and competitive differentiation in the construction landscape. 

Why is Telemedicine in Workers Compensation Important? 

Over the years, the construction industry has seen a significant reduction in the frequency of occupational injuries and illnesses, as evident in the declining Total Recordable Incidence Rate (TRIR). Despite this progress, the fluctuating rate of serious injuries and fatalities still adversely affects the ‘days away, restricted, or transferred’ (DART) rate, posing a risk to contractors’ ability to bid on projects due to potential EMR deterioration. 

The challenge is intensified by the increasing shortage of both skilled and unskilled labor. This labor gap has led to a rise in overtime, further escalating the risk of injuries, particularly musculoskeletal ones. New employees, typically with less than a year of experience, are more prone to workplace injuries. This mix of heightened work demands and labor shortages, filled by either new recruits or extended work hours, presents a complex scenario for managing workers’ compensation. 

Supporting these insights, industry data indicates that in 2020, private industry saw over 2.6 million recordable cases of injuries and illnesses, with about 1.2 million involving days away from work. Worker injuries resulted in $163.9 billion in costs, including medical and administrative expenses, lost wages, and productivity. Furthermore, the probability of a worker returning to full employment decreases significantly with the length of absence, dropping to just 4.9% after two years away from work.

But what does this mean for the different stakeholders?

Employers

Employers are increasingly recognizing the benefits of telemedicine as part of their workers’ compensation strategy. With a focus on reducing downtime and managing costs, it provides an immediate, accessible solution for initial injury assessment and ongoing care. It allows for swift action, potentially lowering the severity of workplace injuries and the associated costs. Employers find that telemedicine can lead to quicker recoveries and shorter absence periods, directly impacting their operational efficiency and financial bottom line.

Injured Workers

From the perspective of injured workers, telemedicine introduces a new level of convenience and immediacy in receiving medical care. After an injury, accessing immediate medical advice without the need to travel to a healthcare facility can not only expedite the healing process but also reduce the anxiety associated with workplace injuries. Continuous remote monitoring and follow-ups ensure that workers receive consistent care, positively affecting their recovery journey and return-to-work timeline.

Brokers and Carriers 

For brokers and carriers, it represents an evolving tool that can streamline claim processes and improve outcomes. It is used as a means to efficiently manage claims, reducing the time and complexity involved in traditional treatment pathways. By integrating these services, they can offer more responsive and effective solutions to their clients, ultimately contributing to improved satisfaction and potentially lower claim costs. 

What are the Benefits of Telemedicine for Workers Compensation? 

Optimizing the Care Process for Injured Workers 

As of 2024, telemedicine in the construction sector has evolved beyond mere reactive measures. It now stands as a proactive, enabling technology, centralizing the injured worker in the workers’ compensation care journey. This evolution allows for immediate, onsite medical attention via phone and video, ensuring prompt and direct physician intervention right after an injury occurs. 

Telemedicine effectively bridges critical gaps in existing workers’ compensation care systems, offering: 

  1. Immediate, guided medical attention for severe onsite emergencies like serious traumas or allergic reactions. 
  2. Competent care for 90% of onsite injuries that are non-surgical, such as burns, cuts, and muscular injuries. 
  3. Continuous communication with the physician, supporting the injured worker and their family, addressing concerns about the injury’s impact. 
  4. Ongoing monitoring of recovery, early detection of complications, and ensuring timely intervention. 
  5. Streamlined return-to-work processes, facilitated by effective coordination between the telemedicine physician, site supervisors, and claims administrators. 
  6. Accessible medical and mental health support directly at the worksite. 

Building Trust with Injured Workers

The process of injury reporting profoundly influences workers’ perceptions of their employer’s concern for their well-being. An employer’s approach, particularly when avoiding blame and focusing on the employee’s physical and emotional health, can significantly impact a worker’s sense of connection and trust. Telemedicine plays a vital role here, as it demonstrates employer care and commitment to employee health. 

Employees who sense genuine care from their employer are more inclined to trust and adhere to medical guidelines for returning to work, whether in a modified or full capacity. This trust is integral to a smooth and effective recovery process, underscoring the importance of telemedicine in reinforcing positive employer-employee relationships during injury management. 

How Telemedicine Improves Outcomes for Workers’ Compensation

Onsite telemedicine has been proven to significantly enhance medical care at the workplace, leading to a reduction in workers’ compensation claims and associated costs. However, the key to successful outcomes lies in the worker’s active participation in their treatment, which is heavily influenced by their trust in and emotional connection with their healthcare provider. 

Telemedicine enhances this connection by allowing physicians to: 

  1. Quickly address, diagnose, and manage injuries at the work site. 
  2. Offer consistent availability, strengthening trust and reliability with the worker and their family. 
  3. Reduce waiting times and streamline interactions between various healthcare and administrative parties. 
  4. Aid in a faster and more appropriate return to work, preserving the worker’s essential social ties and aiding in their recovery. 

The effectiveness is further amplified when supported by robust software systems, ensuring a seamless flow of information among all parties involved, from employers to healthcare providers and claims administrators. This integration is essential for improving healthcare outcomes in workers’ compensation scenarios. 

Outcome Measures of Trust-Based Telemedicine for Workers’ Compensation

Workers Compensation Technology 

The advent of telemedicine is marked by the integration of sophisticated technologies and services, each contributing uniquely to the enhancement of medical care and risk management. 

Workplace Injury Management Software 

Far from a mere digital filing or recordkeeping system, the latest innovations in workplace injury management software now allow them to act as an intelligent hub. However, its true value lies in its analytical capabilities, which provides critical insights into injury patterns and safety vulnerabilities. This data-driven approach aids construction companies in identifying and addressing recurring safety issues, thus improving overall workplace safety and reducing the incidence of future claims. 

Key Challenges of Workers Compensation Telemedicine and Our Solutions 

OSHA Compliance 

OSHA sets standards for workplace safety and health management, which includes the administration of medical care.  

We actively work to reduce OSHA metrics and DART days. This is because our approach includes immediate, physician-led care following an injury, particularly in areas with limited medical resources. 

Fraud 

The virtual nature of telemedicine could potentially limit avenues for fraudulent claims, where the authenticity of an injury or the accuracy of the reported information might be questionable. JobSiteCare combats this by employing licensed medical providers to perform immediate assessments, creating an official record of the incident, often within minutes of the injury. This process, combined with consistent follow-ups, even daily, if necessary, helps ensure the accuracy and legitimacy of the claims, reducing the likelihood of fraudulent cases. 

How to Ensure Success for Workers Compensation Telemedicine Practices 

Choose Optimal HIPAA Compliant Telemedicine Technology 

Begin by identifying a telemedicine platform that aligns with HIPAA standards, ensuring the confidentiality and security of patient information. It’s essential that the technology supports a broad spectrum of telemedicine functionalities, from video consultations to secure data handling, to address the various aspects of workplace injuries. 

Go for a Patient-Centered, Personable Telemedicine Model 

While technological efficiency is critical, the human element cannot be overlooked. Healthcare providers should focus on establishing a connection with patients, demonstrating understanding, and tailoring care to individual needs. Such an approach can elevate patient satisfaction, encourage adherence to treatment, and build trust in the telemedicine process. 

Raise Awareness on Telemedicine for Workers Compensation 

The successful implementation of telemedicine hinges on the awareness and acceptance within your workforce. Develop an educational campaign targeting all levels of the organization, emphasizing the practical benefits and efficiencies telemedicine brings to workers’ compensation. This could involve informational seminars, detailed guides, and regular communications. An informed workforce is more likely to embrace and effectively utilize telemedicine services. 

Provide Clear Instructions for Your Workforce 

To facilitate seamless adoption, provide employees with straightforward, step-by-step guidelines for accessing and utilizing telemedicine services. This should cover the logistics of arranging virtual consultations, technical requirements, and procedures to follow in case of connectivity issues. Ensuring these guidelines are readily accessible will empower your workforce to engage with telemedicine services with confidence and ease. 

Aim for a Reduction in Claim Costs 

Integrate telemedicine with an objective to curtail the costs associated with workers’ compensation claims. Regular monitoring and analysis of cost-related metrics are central to gauging the financial impact of telemedicine and to refine strategies for optimal cost-efficiency. 

Conclusion

Technological progress is constantly refining practices in project safety and risk management within the construction industry. Telemedicine is a notable innovation in this field, positively influencing the treatment and recovery process in workers’ compensation cases.

It is also reshaping the way injured workers interact with their employers and healthcare providers, leading to a more engaged and trusting relationship. This shift from a traditional transactional model to a more trust-based approach in managing workers’ injuries is making a marked difference in the recovery and outcomes of these cases. 

With our years of dedicated experience in workers’ compensation and telemedicine-assisted workers care on the jobsite, we’ve honed our skills in effective workplace injury management. Leveraging our deep understanding of workers compensation insurance complexities, we tailor solutions that not only mitigate risks but also foster a healthier, more resilient workforce. If you’re seeking a partner that blends expertise with genuine care, we invite you to reach out and experience the difference JobSiteCare can make. 

Frequently asked questions

How does telemedicine change the supply of healthcare workers? 

Telemedicine expands the accessibility of healthcare professionals by transcending geographical boundaries. It allows workers to consult with a broader range of specialists and general practitioners, mitigating the issue of local healthcare worker shortages. 

Does workers compensation cover telemedicine? 

Yes, most workers’ compensation policies now include coverage for telemedicine services. This inclusion reflects the growing recognition of telemedicine as a viable alternative to traditional in-person medical consultations. 

How does workers compensation telemedicine increase ROI? 

Workers’ compensation telemedicine can increase ROI by reducing the time and costs associated with in-person medical visits, enhancing recovery times through prompt medical attention, and potentially decreasing the overall duration of workers’ compensation claims. 

Does telemedicine reduce the risk of fraud in workers compensation? 

Telemedicine can contribute to reducing fraud risks in workers’ compensation by providing clear, records of consultations and treatments. Its structured and transparent nature can deter fraudulent claims and ensure more accurate reporting. 

How does workers compensation telemedicine ensure OSHA compliance? 

Workers’ compensation telemedicine helps ensure OSHA compliance by facilitating immediate and appropriate medical response to workplace injuries, thereby adhering to OSHA’s requirements for timely and effective medical care. Its use can be a part of an employer’s broader strategy to meet OSHA standards for workplace safety and health management. 

 

About the authors

Daniel Carlin, MD, is the CEO of JobSiteCare, who pioneered JobSiteCare’s innovative concierge telemedicine model after a decade of experience in demanding healthcare environments. Dr. Carlin is a national leader in the field of telemedicine. He is a board-certified emergency physician and a former US Navy medical officer, and he is a frequent speaker to medical and international development audiences. He has been a featured presenter at the Construction Risk Conference hosted by the International Risk Management Institute in 2022 and 2023.

Dr. Carlin has spoken at institutions such as the MIT Media Lab, the United States Naval Academy, and professional conferences such as the American Telemedicine Association and the International Development Council. Dr. Carlin’s work has been featured in The Hill, Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, FT, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Worth. Dr. Carlin has also been a guest speaker on The Today Show, Dateline NBC, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Learn more via email at mrusso@jobsitecare.com

Cal Beyer, CWP, is a human capital risk and worker wellbeing consultant. He has over 30 years of professional experience in construction risk management, insurance, and safety. Cal is a strategic partner with the national nonprofit SAFE Project (Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic). He helped launch the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention in 2016. He serves on the Executive Committee of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. He serves on Advisory Boards for Goldfinch Health, MindWise Innovations, Youturn Health, and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Contact Beyer at cbeyer@gmail.com or via cell at 651-307-7883.