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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Is The Virtual Doctor a Cure for Workers' Compensation

The American Association of Retired People (ARRP) reports in May/June2010 edition of their magazine that the concept of online appointments is taking hold in the medical system.  Doctors are making house calls by computer or phone. Patients will no longer have to sit in waiting rooms watching "Medical TV" or read magazines while waiting to see their doctor.

One of the primary benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act is that of medical benefits.  Medical benefits are mandated by the Act, and require the employer to furnish the injured worker with medical, surgical and other treatment and hospital services as are necessary "to cure and relieve the worker of the effects of the injury and to restore the functions of the injured member or organ" if possible. The injured worker's exclusive remedy to receive medical treatment is in accordance with the provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act.  The employer can be compelled to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment, and an action at common law against the workers' compensation insurance carrier is barred. The employee's right to medical benefits is independent of other remedies available under the Workers' Compensation Act.  The injured worker need not wait until final adjudication of his claim for permanent disability in order to proceed with a claim for medical benefits.

This year OptumHealth is about to launch NowClinic. The site is compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Using Chrome will not allow you to access the site. The planned cost, according to AAARP is  $45 for a ten minute dialog.

Will this trend be adaptable to workers' compensation programs is a major question. With so much paranoia concerning fraud on both sides of the program involving into RICO claims, many employers and insurers might be apprehensive in launching such a system. On the other hand, the cost savings benefits to employers and insurance companies maybe monumental. Clinical care, diagnostic testing and pharmaceutical dispensing may also become incorporated into the program. Some delays maybe eliminated for claims that are not contested or denied.  Once into the "system" the chance for straying to unauthorized medical care could be reduced.

As technological expands in the health profession, the use of virtual care system will probably become more available. Tailoring them to the needs of the workers' compensation program will remain a challenging opportunity to improve the benefit system.

To read more about health care and workers' compensation click here.