Study shows that no significant delay in workers’ compensation care occurred at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute, titled “The Early Impact of COVID-19 on Medical Treatment for Workers Compensation Non-COVID-19 Claims,” found almost no delay in treatment during the first two quarters of the pandemic .
The report aimed to “investigate patterns of access and use of medical care that are specific to workers’ compensation in the first quarters of 2020”.
One of the key findings of the report is that “injury claims in the first two quarters of 2020 did not experience any noticeable delay in medical treatment compared to the wait time for claims. with injuries during the first two quarters of 2019 ”.
In fact, the study found slightly shorter wait times for several types of services in processing lost-time injury claims, including emergency departments, physical medicine, major surgery. and neurological / neuromuscular testing, as well as shorter wait times between injury and emergency. care services for lost time claims with first quarter 2020 injury dates compared to first quarter 2019 claims.
“The main takeaway from this report is that workers injured in the first two quarters of 2020 [did] no noticeable delay in medical treatment compared to the first two quarters of 2019, ”said study author Dr Olesya Fomenko.
Fomenko added: “Our main findings are potentially surprising, given that over the period of our study, the decline in medical care used by the general public has been substantial and universal. “
The report cites other studies showing that by the end of the second quarter of 2020, about 41% of American adults had delayed or avoided emergency and routine care.
“Several recent studies have found in the first half of 2020 evidence of substantial delays, avoidance or reduction of medical care among people with group insurance,” said Fomenko.
“So it is likely that the general public will expect to see similar trends for workers’ compensation patients. “
Reasons for a lack of delays
One of the possible causes of the lack of delays was the reduction in the volume of complaints.
“In a previous WCRI report, we show that the volume of non-COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims declined significantly in the second quarter of 2020,” Fomenko said.
“The majority of states have seen a decline of at least 30%, and up to 50% in Massachusetts. Factors such as a sharp reduction in employment, a substantial shift to remote work, and the decision not to seek treatment for less serious injuries, have most likely reduced injury rates and claiming behaviors, and therefore the overall demand for health services of non-COVID- 19 workers compensation patients.
While this was outside the scope of the report, Fomenko also pointed out that “on the other hand, stay-at-home orders could have resulted in increased wait times.”
Other possible factors also include a reduction in demand from non-worker health care consumers.
The report states that, “In the first half of 2020, delays and avoidance of medical care were common among the general public, as a CDC study noted – as of June 30, 2020, an estimated 41% of American adults had delayed or avoided medical care, including urgent or emergency care (12%) and routine care (32%), due to concerns about COVID-19.
“In addition, and in the first months of the pandemic, with the adoption of stay-at-home orders, visits to medical offices declined by 70 to 80%… public were substantial and universal.
Such reluctance may have prompted patients with less severe injuries to defer treatment, so that, among those who sought treatment, a disproportionate number suffered more serious and urgent injuries.
“In our previous study on the early impact of COVID-19 on the composition of workers’ compensation claims, we reported an increase in the share of lost-time claims among non-COVID-19 claims,” Fomenko said.
“This could indicate patients who have on average a higher severity and a more urgent need for medical treatment.”
What injuries were the most common?
However, the study highlights that the types of injuries remained consistent across 10 categories: fractures, hand lacerations, inflammation, knee discomfort, lacerations and contusions, neurological pain, sprain / sprain of the spine, other sprains / strains, skin and others.
“Even though the pandemic had a dramatic effect on the volume of non-COVID-19 WC claims for most of the states in the study, the composition of injuries remains largely unaffected by the outbreak,” the study said. .
The study found similar stability in the types of services used by worker comp patients.
“For lost-time claims with injury dates in the first two quarters of 2020, the share of claims with eight service types remained broadly stable compared to the care models of the first two quarters of 2019.”
The services examined were: “assessment and management, emergency care, physical medicine, neurological and neuromuscular testing, pain management injections, major surgery, major radiology and minor radiology”.
Exceptions to this rule include a 4% drop in the share of claims to emergency services, which the report said “is in line with the expectation that people would want to avoid going to the emergency room for fear of contraction of the virus “.
In the first quarter of 2020 compared to the first quarter of 2019, there was also a 3% decrease in major surgery claims, and 2% declines in pain management claims and major radiology claims.
The study also looked at the number of visits to medical providers by worker comp patients.
“We also examined the impact of the pandemic on the number of unique visits for assessment and management, physical medicine and minor radiology – the only types of services with significant frequencies of multiple visits”, a- he declared. “In all of the analyzed subgroups of WC complaints, we found no change in the average number of visits for these three types of services.”
The study looked at 27 states, accounting for 68% of paid worker benefits in the United States. Learn more about the study or download a copy here. &