While coronavirus news is often bleak and sometimes downright depressing, there may be a silver lining for claims management. The global pandemic has pushed the importance of virtual care and claims management technology to the forefront. It has ignited a fire in the workers’ compensation industry, inspiring companies to find ways to quickly identify and safely treat cases, while minimizing the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 has revealed the importance of a claims management process that is transparent, data-driven and accessible to all stakeholders. From expanded telehealth options to the newest technology in claims management, including integrated platforms and patient-focused tools, the workers’ compensation industry is evolving.
The future of claims management and virtual care leverages innovative technologies and artificial intelligence, and it is catching fire across the industry. Here are some examples of the revolutionary trends in claims management:
#1. Telehealth is HOT
While telehealth was introduced for workers’ compensation cases about six years ago, the journey to adoption has been slow and bumpy as employers and injured workers were hesitant to make the virtual leap. Before the pandemic, only 8% of Americans had ever used telemedicine, but that changed almost overnight with some medical providers reporting up to 95% of post-COVID-19 patient visits now being conducted virtually.
Telehealth allows injured workers to quickly connect to providers via telephonic evaluations and video visits. Injured workers can be seen much faster, especially those who may be remote, at a distance from existing medical facilities, or working during off hours.
Since its introduction, telehealth has significantly improved workers’ compensation management and the care of injured workers. According to CorVel, a national provider of risk management solutions that was among the first to launch telehealth services in workers’ compensation, data measuring the impact of telehealth programs over a five-year period showed:
- Treatment wait times have been reduced from an average of two hours to 10 minutes
- Treatment costs have been reduced anywhere from $100 to $850 per visit, depending on the specialty, with improved quality of care
- The number of unnecessary medication prescriptions has been reduced by nearly 50%
- Patient satisfaction rates have improved from 3.65 to 4.8 on a scale of 1 to 5
#2. As COVID-19 Rages, Telehealth Expands to Create End-to-End Solutions
As private insurers and public health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, are now providing reimbursement for remote office visits, at-home patient monitoring and physician-to-physician consults, it is clear that telehealth is here to stay. However, COVID-19 has forced us to move past traditional telehealth to address the full episode of care—from beginning to end.
Expanded virtual care solutions provide the ability to engage the injured worker, treat the injury or illness and manage care remotely, minimizing the risk for all parties involved. From initial injury or exposure to return to work, virtual services are playing a role to ease the process for claims management professionals, employees and payers and the injured worker:
- From the first moment of an injury or exposure, communication is critical, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Virtual 24/7 nurse triage is being used more than ever to connect injured workers with a registered nurse for immediate medical evaluation and care direction. Companies have also implemented special hotlines for employers and employees who present with COVID-19 symptoms or who need additional information.
- After being screened by a triage nurse, telehealth connects injured workers with a provider through a virtual visit via a computer or smart device. The virtual visit facilitates more immediate care for remote workers or those who are required to shelter in place. Patients who need testing are directed to a provider who manages the process to minimize the potential for infection and the possible spread of the disease. Follow-up protocols are being put in place for infected patients, making sure they get support and education throughout the incubation period. Remote care and communication ease this process and keep employees and providers safe.
- Injured workers’ with more complex care or continuing needs can also benefit from virtual services, including rehabilitation by telehealth, video medical visits, home delivery of prescriptions and durable medical equipment and coordination of any diagnostic testing to aid a rapid return to work and minimize exposure to the virus.
- When it’s time to return to work, virtual services help companies perform employee assessment screenings and provide education to promote a safe workspace based on CDC guidelines.
#3. Connecting the Dots: Integrated Claims Management and Artificial Intelligence
While telehealth has made major strides during the pandemic, it is the combination of big data, artificial intelligence and telehealth that is now delivering new improvements in care and claims management. An integrated platform with the ability to manage the full episode of care through one system simplifies workflows, allowing claims professionals more time to focus on the injured worker, while delivering patient-centered engagement, and prompt, open communication for all stakeholders
The application of artificial intelligence combined with big data can catch potential flags and danger signals much faster than a busy claims professional reading reams of text and reports. Leveraging big data and artificial intelligence overcomes the hurdle of significant delays before relevant data is identified, analyzed and acted upon. By quickly analyzing multiple data streams to identify specific patterns and flag potential snags, AI-driven analytics can provide an early warning system that gives claims handlers, case managers, and medical providers actionable information to speed up and smooth out the claims resolution process and ensure that the patient gets the best care, reducing the likelihood of complications, friction and a costly and drawn-out claim.
Instead of spending hours reading through notes and documents to get a picture of the injured worker’s progress, a direct communication alerts stakeholders to a development in the injured workers’ condition that needs immediate attention.
For case managers and claims adjusters, the ability to automatically identify problems that would have required hours of searching for in notes and files is a huge boon to their efficiency and job satisfaction. Now, they can focus on problem-solving for the injured worker versus being consumed by data and paperwork.
- One example of how prescriptive analytics is being used is to evaluate the morphine equivalency of a patient’s medications to detect emerging problems. When a certain threshold is reached, the claims professional receives an automated notice in real time, allowing for immediate intervention to find safer options for pain management. Pairing this will telehealth allows us to offer a biopsychosocial solution for care management versus just the bio-medical model.
#4 Technology With Heart
To improve case management even further, companies are finding ways to put the thought process of nurses and claims experts at the center of technology. This unique case management codification is changing how claims are managed and improving the claims management process for nurses, claims management professionals, employers and the injured workers.
Traditional case management reporting has been notorious for voluminous documentation outlining the status and activity of the case manager, requiring the reader to dedicate hours of reading only to try to decipher the significant details and navigate through the medical jargon and abbreviation contained within the report. The value of case management was measured more on words per page versus actual interventions and outcomes.
New codification, leveraging the nurses' thought process, gives claims professionals the information needed to act quickly without the lengthy process of reading through extensive notes and documentation. It identifies risk and flags potential snags, providing an early warning system that provides actionable information to speed up and smooth out the claims resolution process and ensure that the patient gets the best care. Instead of spending hours reading through notes and documents to get a picture of the injured worker’s progress, claims managers can get direct communication alerting them to a development in the injured workers’ condition that needs immediate attention.
- For example, codification can alert the claim administrator of pain that is preventing the injured employee from returning to work. The platform immediately notifies the claim administrator when an injured worker is expected to recover but is experiencing decreased function due to pain. Actions are recommended based on data entered by the nurse case manager. This allows the claims administrator to promptly address potential issues that may impede restoration of the injured worker’s comfort and function. The prompt response can help the employee heal and get back to work as quickly as possible.
This innovative technology reduces disability duration, improves return-to-work and stay-at-work outcomes and lowers claims costs like never before. In fact, cases referred less than 30 days from date of injury result in 30% higher savings on average, and litigation rates are decreased about 50% when cases are referred to case management within the first 7 to 30 days.
See also: The Case for Paying COVID BII Claims
COVID-19 is a reminder that behind every claim is an incredibly valuable worker who needs attention from the first moment an incident occurs. With innovative integrated technologies, we have the ability to keep workers safe and provide exceptional care by leveraging virtual tools and enabling end-to-end care. As telehealth has risen to the forefront during this crisis because of its ability to provide the best care possible at any time and from any location, it is also inspiring several other advancements that will enhance patient care, including:
- Patient specificity, matching patients with the “right provider,” is on the rise and already being implemented to provide Spanish-speaking workers with a Spanish-speaking nurse and provider. At CorVel, this patient specificity matching is already happening for 85% of Spanish-speaking injured workers. In the future, telehealth will allow us to analyze the specific needs of a patient and then match that patient with the right provider for the case.
- Second opinions via telehealth allow us to confer with some of the top specialists in the country, who have no financial interest in the outcome, in order for the patient to make the best care decisions. Anyone who has been through a surgery has seen that the shared decision making on the risk-reward of the procedure is handed to you on a clip board as you are about to be wheeled into the OR. Having an expert second opinion will help guide treatment decisions and put the patient’s mind at ease.
- As telehealth is expanding to specialists so are the peripheral devices designed to support care in this medium. A great example is the use of Tyto-care, which connects to a smart phone to allow pediatrics to see inside the patient’s ear or throat remotely. As demand for telehealth increases, we can expect to see more FDA-approved devices available to support virtual care.
Telehealth will remain a critical tool for managing workers’ compensation cases even after COVID-19 because of its ability to reduce costs, improve satisfaction, and keep workers safe. This combination of virtual services to manage care remotely, patient-centered engagement and prompt, open communication for all stakeholders is changing the way claims are managed and is the future of claims management.