Give Employees the Gift of Virtual Care for Holiday Shift Work Injuries

Lawrence Buirse

For industries like retail, shipping and logistics, and manufacturing, the holiday season can be a highly profitable and extremely busy period that fuels the need for some businesses to hire seasonal employees. But seasonal employees may lack direct work experience, and properly acclimating new hires during the holiday season — a time when demand is high and productivity targets are even higher — can be challenging. Even with safety training, seasonal employees may not consistently apply company safety measures.

New and inexperienced employees are typically more vulnerable to work-related injuries. In fact, employees who have been on the job less than one year account for 35 percent of work injury cases.1 But their injury risks may be heightened by the need to adapt and work faster during the holiday season. Seasonal employees may work multiple jobs, and permanent employees may work longer hours during the holiday season. This means fatigue could become a factor, which could diminish an employee’s performance and attention to detail. Research reveals that fatigue is responsible for roughly 13 percent of workplace injuries.3 These factors can combine to create a perform storm that could result in a higher incidence of injuries associated with the holiday work crunch.

Injury care access for shift work

Whether stocking shelves in a department store during the third shift or packing orders in a warehouse during the first shift, the production demands of the holiday season can lead to work injuries occurring at any time. When these injuries occur, businesses want to provide care as soon as possible. But if an employee is injured at a worksite that is distant from medical facilities or at a time when nearby medical facilities are closed, providing care within a reasonable period becomes harder to achieve. And it’s no secret that care access can impact both an injured employee’s health outcome and a company’s overall workers’ compensation claims cost.

There is no conclusive evidence that suggests employees are more prone to injury while working an overnight shift versus a daytime shift. What is evident, however, is the limited health care options for an employee who suffers a muscle strain halfway through a third shift when most urgent care clinics are closed. With few or no options, an employer may send the injured employee to the nearby hospital emergency department — emergency or not. But the amount of missed work time and medical costs for an emergency department visit can be significant.

While all employees who suffer work-related injuries deserve attention, not every work injury will reach the level of medical necessity that warrants an emergency department visit. Yet, care access is still vital, and round-the-clock access to a medical professional for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment following a work injury is a benefit telemedicine can deliver.

The growing presence of telemedicine in workers’ compensation

Telemedicine in the workers’ compensation space is becoming more prevalent. In terms of convenience and access, it checks the right boxes. Concentra Telemed®, for example, is a service that delivers virtual care to employees with relatively minor workplace injuries. The telemedicine service can be leveraged to manage certain occupational injuries regardless of time or location.

“Telemedicine provides timely and convenient access to high-quality care for an injured employee,” said Lisa Figueroa, MD, Concentra vice president of medical operations and national medical director of health information technology and telemedicine. “An injured employee connects with a clinician from home or the workplace using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.”

From a regulatory and billing perspective, many state workers’ compensation and telemedicine laws now allow virtual care options for the treatment of work injuries. 
“In 2020, there were numerous emergency regulations impacting telemedicine,” said Ann Schnure, Concentra vice president of telemedicine operations. “As the state of emergency regulations have expired in almost all states, there is still good guidance on what a quality telemedicine visit in occupational injury should be, how to bill, etc.” 
More states have worked to remove confusion around billing and reimbursement of telemedicine for workers’ compensation, which helps provide a clearer picture of which telemedicine services are eligible for reimbursement and helps facilitate an easier process for submitting telemedicine claims for payment.

Along with offering better care access without some of the past regulatory or billing challenges, implementing telemedicine for workers’ compensation can be seamless for employers.

“All it takes for a telemedicine visit is a device with a camera, microphone, and strong signal to access the internet,” explained Schnure. “An iPad, laptop, smartphone, or desktop will work, which makes attending a telemedicine visit very simple. Just make sure the telemedicine service provider uses a HIPAA-compliant solution.”

Workers’ compensation telemedicine ROI

The decision to hire seasonal employees can be a worthwhile and necessary investment for employers during the busy holiday season. Businesses that invest in seasonal employees do so to meet holiday productivity demands and ultimately boost their earnings. Adopting telemedicine for workers’ compensation injuries can also be viewed in the same light, except the value of telemedicine for workers’ compensation can extend far beyond the holiday season.

“For an employer to invest time into launching a telemedicine solution for occupational injuries is well worth it,” Schnure remarked. “Removing issues such as transportation, time, wrong provider, and access to care are huge when evaluating telemedicine ROI.”

The case for telemedicine in a workers’ compensation program is gaining strength, as clinical outcomes reveal that utilizing telemedicine for certain work injury cases can be a reliable treatment option. Since the launch of Concentra Telemed in 2017, Concentra clinicians have used the telemedicine platform to conduct more than 200,000 virtual visits. Only five percent of Concentra Telemed patients are recommended for off-duty time following a work injury.2 Nationally, clinicians recommend off-duty time for 44 percent of their work injury patients according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.4 Additionally, 88 percent of Concentra Telemed patients are recommended to return to work in some capacity (i.e., regular duty or with restrictions).2

Research suggests that by prioritizing return to work, employees can recover faster and absenteeism can be minimized.5 If telemedicine has the potential to deliver timely, effective care for better return-to-work outcomes, employers could yield positive results from an injury case duration and productivity perspective — thus, making it easier for them to measure the true value of telemedicine.

Add telemedicine to your workers’ compensation program

Adding telemedicine to a workers’ compensation program can help reduce some of the direct costs associated with a work injury claim; however, by eliminating some logistical challenges (e.g., travel arrangements to and from a brick-and-mortar facility) and reducing lost time, the indirect savings can be equally substantial. But employers should not overlook the potential impact telemedicine can have on patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.

“Injured employees are highly satisfied when they can receive care without having to leave work or home,” said Figueroa. “In addition to convenience and high patient satisfaction, shorter case durations and exceptional clinical outcomes help to make telemedicine for occupational injury care an obvious choice for employers.”

Concentra Telemed is available 24/7 to employees with relatively minor work-related injuries. With Concentra Telemed, injured employees have nationwide access to Concentra’s occupational health clinicians. These licensed medical professionals have a wealth of experience treating employees with a broad range of work-related injuries and illnesses.

Concentra Telemed is available in most states. Find out if Concentra Telemed is available in your state. If it is available where your business operates, start the process of using Concentra Telemed at your workplace today.

  1. Travelers Insurance. (n.d.).The Travelers Injury Impact Report.
  2. Concentra Telemed Compass Report (1/1/2022 - 9/30/2022). Generated October 9, 2022. Concentra Clinical Analytics and Quality Department.
  3. NSC Fatigue Reports. National Safety Council. (n.d.).
  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (n.d.).Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities.
  5. He, Y., Hu, J., Yu, I. T. S., Gu, W., and Liang, Y. (2010, February 18).Determinants of return to work after occupational injury. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation.