The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) published a new report that evaluates telemedicine services in the Texas workers’ comp system from 2018-2021.
According to the report, only 951 claims – or less than 1% of claims receiving professional medical services – received telemedicine pre-pandemic. During the pandemic, approximately 21,086 claims – or 7% of claims receiving professional services – received telemedicine.
The number of telemedicine services utilized by month was 16 in September 2018, slowly increasing to 283 by February 2020. However, once the pandemic hit, the monthly number of telemedicine services spiked to a high of 12,743 in April of 2020, slowly decreasing as Texas began to reopen. As of January 2021, telemedicine services per month reached 3,705.
Regarding service utilized, office visits were the most frequently used telemedicine services both prior and during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, 77% of telemedicine consultations were for these office visits, increasing to only 80% during the pandemic. Physical medicine and rehabilitation utilization across telemedicine doubled from 3% of telemedicine visits pre-pandemic to 6% during the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic, 57% of telemedicine users were female, but during the pandemic the demographics shifted, with 60% of telemedicine users identified as male. While overall utilization did not decrease across any demographic, the share of telemedicine usage shifted across age ranges:
- Those aged 25-34 made up 24% of telemedicine services pre-pandemic, then 19% during the pandemic
- Those aged 35-44 made up 24% of telemedicine services pre-pandemic, then 26% during the pandemic
- Those aged 45-54 made up 22% of telemedicine services pre-pandemic, then 29% during the pandemic
- Those aged 65 made up 3%% of telemedicine services pre-pandemic and during the pandemic
Total payments for telemedicine services increased during the pandemic, with carriers paying three-fourths of billed services. Pre-pandemic, telemedicine services were charged for $383,220, with $235,945 paid. During the pandemic, $14,755,806 was charged, with $6,792,701 paid.
The average number of days from injury to initial telemedicine service was six to seven weeks from April to September 2020, but that decreased to three weeks in 2021.