Telemedicine is growing in popularity as a way to treat injured workers. However, you do have several options available if you are unhappy with the quality of care you are receiving through your Georgia workers’ compensation benefits.
Telemedicine is a term that refers to the use of phone or online video conferences to treat patients instead of their visiting a doctor’s physical office. Telemedicine initially developed as a way to provide care in rural areas and communities that struggled to attract enough qualified healthcare providers. However, the technology is now spreading widely as a way to control the rising cost of healthcare.
Aside from the cost savings, advantages of telemedicine include:
- Patients with limited transportation or injuries that affect their mobility don’t need to physically travel to a doctor’s office.
- Patients with a compromised immune system aren’t risking exposure to infectious diseases as they might in a traditional doctor’s office.
- Patients who are uncomfortable with doctors may feel more at ease with a telemedicine visit, thus allowing them to more accurately and honestly describe their symptoms.
Potential disadvantages include:
- Telemedicine does not have the same clearly defined legal regulations as traditional doctor’s office visits, creating the potential for discrepancies in quality of care.
- Decreased human interaction between patient and doctor may increase errors in diagnosis, especially when an illness or injury involves symptoms that overlap with multiple conditions.
- Sensitive personal health information remains vulnerable in the event of hacking or activities that otherwise compromise a company’s recordkeeping system.
Use of Telemedicine in Workers’ Compensation Cases
Workers’ compensation uses telemedicine is several different ways. Common examples include:
- The injury is one that appears relatively minor, but a professional opinion is needed to see if medical care is necessary. For example, telemedicine could be used to quickly determine if a worker needs stitches for a cut or whether specialized care is required for a burn.
- The injury occurs during the evening hours or in a location that is not near a traditional clinic. In this case, telemedicine prevents an unnecessary emergency room visit.
- A worker requires a second opinion as to the correct course of treatment for his injury.
- Convenient follow-up care is needed for developments such as pain management difficulties or the proper healing of a wound in someone with insulin-dependent diabetes.
Your Rights Regarding Your Medical Care
When you are injured on the job, your non-emergency medical needs must be attended to by a provider on your employer’s panel of physicians. This is a list of at least six doctors who have been approved by your employer due to their experience in treating common work-related injuries. They can refer you to the appropriate specialist if you need care that is beyond their professional expertise. You aren’t allowed to be treated by your regular family doctor, but you can see anyone on the panel of physicians for treatment.
The doctor you choose from the panel of physicians is known as your authorized treating physician (ATP). If your ATP provides telemedicine visits and you’re unhappy with the quality of care you’ve received, you can make one change to another doctor without requiring permission from your employer. In some circumstances, you may be able to see a physician of your own choosing as part of an independent medical examination (IME).
Protecting Your Legal Rights
You do not have to hire an attorney to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Employees of most Georgia companies are covered as of their first day of work regardless of whether they are classified as part-time, full-time, seasonal, or temporary. However, if you are unhappy with your medical care or are not receiving income benefits, retaining an attorney is the best way to protect your rights.
Rechtman & Spevak’s attorneys have extensive experience helping injured Georgia workers with their workers’ compensation claims. Please call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.