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Technology like telemedicine and telepsychology help get injured workers back to function better and faster

Providing the proper treatment to an injured worker as quickly as possible is crucial to best outcomes. Many studies demonstrate that the faster someone gets appropriate medical attention, the more motivated he is and the sooner he can heal and return-to-work. This is especially true for workers with psychosocial risk factors. Thanks to advanced technology, fiber optic cable, smart devices and other aspects of modern life, injured workers can receive specialized treatments anywhere with just the push of a button. Telemedicine, telehealth and telepsychology are changing how we can help injured workers recover and get back to their lives.

Telepsychology and Faster Recoveries

In addition to helping an injured worker recover from his physical injuries, faster access to treatment also helps prevent delayed recoveries among those with psychosocial risk factors. The longer an injured worker with these issues has to wait for treatment, the higher the risk he will develop a sick role mentality.

“Creeping catastrophic claims” involve seemingly minor injuries in a person with psychosocial risk factors. The longer he is untreated, the more likely the worker’s claim will degenerate and become long-term and expensive.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective methods to prevent delayed recoveries among injured workers with psychosocial risk factors. It is short-term, goal-oriented and proven effective in helping even the most difficult cases. The sooner an injured worker with psychosocial risk factors engages in CBT, the fewer the number of treatments needed and the shorter the healing time.

But getting this treatment to injured workers can be difficult for persons:

  • In a rural area
  • Without adequate transportation to a provider
  • With a language barrier
  • Needing integrated treatment

We use many different forms of technology to get the right treatment to an injured worker as soon as possible. In some cases, it means having a psychologist or psychiatrist ‘visit’ with the injured worker, while in others it involves various apps to help the recovery process.

Here are some of the strategies now available to us:

Interdisciplinary model. Physical therapy combined with CBT can be extremely successful for some injured workers, especially those with psychosocial risk issues. The effect is even better when the two providers can work together with the injured worker. A HIPAA compliance Web-enabled video system allows the patient to talk to a psychologist while he is being treated by a physical therapist, just by using a computer, tablet or smart phone. It allows for face-to-face sessions. The model creates a more focused treatment. In our case, we have teamed up with a national physical therapy provider to use this method.

 

Interactive Apps. CBT requires the injured worker to do certain exercises and activities on his own. Telehealth enables the injured worker to practice the skills 24-hours-a-day with the help and encouragement of our CBT-trained psychologists to further enhance the effectiveness of this therapy. We’ve created several apps to assist. For example, there are

  • Educational videoswhiteboards
  • Assessments
  • CBT Treatment PlanModalities
  • CBT Games
  • Biometric Monitoring, including heart rate variability biofeedback; mindfulness tracking; activity tracking; sleep tracking; brain plasticity training, mirror therapy; medication tracking; cognitive functional screening; and behavioral economics.

 

Remote psychiatric sessions. A major challenge in the workers’ compensation system arises when the injured worker needs the services of a psychiatrist. There are simply too few psychiatrists involved in the workers’ compensation system. Fortunately, telehealth maximizes their reach. The psychologist meets face-to-face with the injured worker, and the psychiatrist joins-in via computer or other device. Since we work with psychiatrists in every state, it easily allows the injured worker to have a ‘session’ with a psychiatrist.

 

Timely trauma debriefings. It is crucial for workers exposed to traumatic events to be ‘debriefed’ as quickly as possible to prevent the brain from having a negative response and beginning to form pathways focused on the trauma. Instead of waiting to see a specialist, we can meet via telemedicine with the injured worker and help him to deal appropriately with the traumatic experience right away.

 

Accessing remote workers. Injured workers who are far away from urban areas can now access the treatment they need by simply logging onto computers and other devices and connect with a psychologist trained in CBT.

 

Home sleep monitoring. Sleep is important in recovery for injured workers with chronic pain so we’ve created an app that monitors their sleep. It has a microphone and includes motion detection, to provide us insight into the worker’s sleeping patterns and give him feedback. The worker puts the smart phone under his pillow and turns on the app. One of the ways it helps, for example, is by making sure the person’s is not awakened during a REM sleep cycle. Assuming the person does not need to be awakened at a specific time, the app can detect when the person is in an REM cycle, and delay the alarm until the cycle is finished.

Conclusion

Getting treatment to injured workers has been a problem for many; especially those in remote locations and those who require the services of a specially trained provider. Through technology, we can now bring these services to any injured worker at any time.

IMCS – Integrated Medical Case Solutions – is the premier behavioral medicine network for pain and trauma response with evidence-based outcomes and a proven track record for transforming workers’ compensation cases. IMCS makes intervention efficient with a national network of 1,500+ psychologists and psychiatrists in all 50 states.