Payers, Health IT

Travelers adds telemedicine as workers’ compensation sector warms up to digital health

The idea is to give qualified injured employees an alternative to going to an emergency room as part of an effort to contain healthcare costs.

Insurance companies in the worker’s compensation sector are increasingly interested in adding digital health tools to monitor and assess employees. Travelers insurance reflects this trend with its move to adopt telemedicine services. The idea is to give qualified injured employees an alternative to going to an emergency room and reduce healthcare costs.

“Our latest capabilities not only speed up access to medical care and make it easier to communicate, but they also address our customers’ top concerns — the health of their employees and the rising costs of healthcare,” said Rich Ives, Travelers vice president of workers compensation claims said in a news release.

Other workers compensation companies have adopted telemedicine and telehealth services for the purpose of reducing claims costs and cost containment generally. CorVel Corp. adopted American Well in 2015.

And telemedicine is far from the only digital health technologies that interest this sector. Earlier this year, Travelers joined Samsung, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Bayer and Applied VR in a partnership to use virtual reality for pain management, MobileHealthNews reported. Travelers and Samsung are funding the study, which is intended to support alternatives to opioids for chronic pain — a frequent source of workers compensation claims.

Dr. Melissa Burke, national pharmacy director at Travelers noted that identifying non-medication alternatives to pain management could not only help injured employees to avoid chronic pain but also reduce the risk of opioid addiction and cut down on medical costs.

Jacksonville, Florida-based workers compensation business One Call Care Management acquired analytics and data visualization business High Line Health last year.

The rise of remote rehab telehealth businesses is also resonating with workers compensation industry players as a way to help workers recover from injuries. But the push has been spurred by their employer customers, Claims Journal reported last year.  One example of a telerehab company that’s working in the worker’s compensation space is Go2Care.

One potential pitfall of the rise of telemedicine among workers compensation companies and employers is that these interactions will be seen as a replacement for in-person visits to physicians. Many in the healthcare industry have championed the use of technology to supplement the work of physicians, not replace it.

Illustration: nicescene, Getty Images