Concentra Broadens Its Scope of Virtual Care
Maintaining continuity of work has been a challenge for many businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Some companies have been forced to modify their operations, while others have made drastic changes in response to declines in business. Shelter-in-place orders and social distancing recommendations have caused many employers to send their employees home and conduct business via video conferencing and social networking platforms. As a health care provider, Concentra® is seeing employers rely more heavily on virtual technology, such as telemedicine, to help manage the health care needs of their employees.
Confidence in telemedicine is growing
Telemedicine has quickly become a highly resourceful tool, allowing health care providers greater access to people in need of care during a time when many medical facilities are stretched beyond capacity. Not only has telemedicine garnered greater support in the health care circle; more consumers are now open to it. A 2020 Sykes survey revealed that nearly 75 percent of respondents stated they would consider using virtual health to be remotely screened for COVID-19, and two out of three respondents said the pandemic has increased their willingness to try virtual care.
Telemedicine’s impact on health care delivery
Video-chat technology is more commonly recognized for social and business networking, but its value to the health care industry has been on full display in recent months. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought telemedicine into a new light, and current data only reinforces the belief that telemedicine utilization won’t dwindle once we reach the post-pandemic phase. The smart money is on telemedicine becoming a mainstay in health care delivery to people with everyday conditions. The next phase of this evolution will take place in the workplace, as employers will reimagine how they deliver occupational health to their workforces.
Telemedicine in the workplace
Most large employers offer telemedicine to their employees as part of their group health packages. But since the start of the pandemic, companies of varying sizes and industries that didn’t offer telemedicine before are now embracing it and exploring options to provide it to their workforce. Not only are more employers making telemedicine available, but a recent National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalition (NAHPC) survey reveals that some companies are even waiving telemedicine visit copays for COVID-19 testing. In addition, regulations surrounding occupational telemedicine services continue to be scrutinized and modified for better alignment with traditional health care services.
According to medical experts, COVID-19 could be with us for the foreseeable future. That means telemedicine will continue to be in the spotlight. The hope is that virtual care will help to ease the burden placed on the health care system. Not only will health care providers have to adapt; so will employers.
Acceptance of telemedicine by consumers was growing even before the pandemic, and that acceptance is not expected to waver once the worst days of COVID-19 are in our rearview. As consumer confidence grows, employers who were on the fence about utilizing telemedicine for occupational health now have evidence of its value. And employers who have adopted virtual care as a short-term alternative have to consider the positive impact it can have on their workforce health program going forward.
Telemedicine and workers’ compensation
The next evolution of workers’ compensation must be the integration of telemedicine into a company’s workers’ compensation process. As companies come to appreciate the value and reliable service that comes with utilizing telemedicine for occupational injury care, Concentra is seeing more employers than ever before adopting telemedicine for the treatment of occupational injuries and experiencing the favorable outcomes it delivers.
“Telemedicine had a low adoption rate that was slowly increasing before COVID-19,” said Ann Schnure, vice president of telemedicine operations at Concentra. Since the company launched Concentra Telemed®, a telemedicine platform designed specifically for the treatment of work-related injuries and illnesses, Schnure has been an industry thought leader and advocate of occupational telemedicine and its potential to revolutionize workplace injury care.
According to Schnure, telemedicine will be critical to work injury care as employees return to work. And the adoption of a work injury care option that doesn’t require face-to-face visits is expected to grow due to greater acceptance by the workers’ compensation and occupational health industries.
We are all reimagining medical care in the workers’ compensation space,” said Schnure. “Medical boards and state workers’ compensation agencies are all rethinking this as well.”
Occupational telemedicine offers many benefits to employers, such as convenience, especially for businesses that operate around the clock and may be located in outlying areas. Work injuries can occur at any time or place, and telemedicine ensures employees have a care option when and where needed.
"A primary benefit of telemedicine is convenient access to quality medical care,” said Lisa Figueroa, MD, FACEP, vice president of medical operations and national medical director of telemedicine at Concentra. “There are opportunities 24/7, 365 days a year for these injured or ill employees to be seen. They don't have to travel to a center, wait to be seen by the clinician then, be checked out of the facility, and drive back to the workplace,” Figueroa explained. “They can have their telemedicine visits at work, at home, or on the road without any need to arrange transportation.”
Concentra Telemed has been utilized for thousands of work injury visits since its launch in 2017. Injured employees trust the level of care they receive, which is proven by the high utilization rate and consistently high patient satisfaction scores. Employers see a return on their investment through better return-to-work treatment compliance and shorter case durations – two leading factors that influence overall injury care costs.
Concentra expands its telemedicine solution
Concentra Telemed has made it possible for injured or ill employees to use a smartphone or computer to connect with a licensed Concentra clinician and receive immediate attention to minor medical issues, work injury care rechecks, physical therapy, and more. Concentra’s recently expanded offering is designed to enable employers and employees with an existing relationship with a Concentra medical center to continue working with the team they know and trust. Telemedicine visits can be arranged by calling the center directly. Contact information for all Concentra medical centers is available on concentra.com, and services will be provided during current hours of operation, including:
- Rechecks for employees who were previously seen at a Concentra medical center
- Concentra Telerehab® for employees who were previously seen at a Concentra medical center and want to continue physical therapy regimens at home
- Return-to-work evaluations for asymptomatic employees with possible exposure to COVID-19
Benefits of center-based telemedicine
One of the advantages to Concentra’s center-based telemedicine is the peace of mind that comes with knowing employees who were exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 can be evaluated before they return to the workplace. Businesses are reopening, and it behooves them to take this precautionary measure to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks at their workplaces. Another benefit is better treatment compliance for employees who have been recovering from a work injury during the pandemic. In today’s health climate, it’s easy to overlook the health care needs of employees not exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19. For these employees, visiting a medical facility can raise concerns about the risk of exposure to COVID-19, but not attending recheck visits can delay their recovery. Center-based telemedicine enables some employees to see their treating clinicians without visiting the clinic. The recheck visits take place via smartphone or computer.
“When we think about the opportunity to be able to serve our patients who need injury care and who are going to be evaluated for COVID-19 exposure under workers’ compensation, the patients may prefer a virtual visit rather than an in-person visit,” said Figueroa.
Initial injuries and transfer-of-care cases
In most states, center-based telemedicine is also available for new, minor work injuries, such as back strains/sprains, tendonitis/repetitive-use injuries, and contusions. In the event an injured employee has been undergoing treatment at a medical facility that is no longer open for business, a Concentra clinician can assume treatment using center-based telemedicine. A transfer-of-care visit can include work-related injuries and illnesses, physical therapy, and specialty care.
Whereas Concentra’s web-based telemedicine offering is available any time, center-based telemedicine is available during each clinic’s specific operating hours. Employers should contact their local Concentra to schedule center-based telemedicine services.
“If you download the Concentra Telemed app or visit concentratelemed.com, you can be seen 24/7 for your appropriate workplace injury. If you go to a specific local center or call the center, and your injury is appropriate for telemedicine, the center can also set up your visit and see you,” explained Schnure.
Concentra offers telemedicine and telerehab as options from the initial injury to any point along the care continuum. And in many cases, a work injury can be managed from beginning to end via telemedicine.
Employers must redefine their methods of care
As employers reopen for business, they will explore new methods of care for their workforces. Concentra believes broadening its telemedicine solution is a timely response to emerging workforce health needs that existed even before the pandemic. The advantages of a comprehensive telemedicine offering could prove valuable during a time when health care resources are low and the exposure risk is still high.
Momentum is building for telemedicine to become a fixture in the workers’ compensation system. As employers’ interest in virtual care grows and states modify their workers’ compensation regulations to support the use of telemedicine, employers will be able to leverage new injury care methods to ensure workforce health and business efficiency align. Telemedicine had a strong value proposition before COVID-19. But in the wake of the pandemic, its value has become even more compelling and clear.
Concentra has a nationwide team of telemedicine experts who can assist employers with everything from telemedicine platform implementation to state-by-state workers’ compensation and telemedicine guidelines