MedRisk, the largest managed care organization dedicated to the physical rehabilitation of injured workers, has published its 2021 Outlook, an industry trends report that prepares workers’ compensation payers for managing the effect COVID-19 has had on musculoskeletal systems, recaps 2020 legislative and regulatory actions, and highlights recent research.
“Researchers predicted it would take about 45 weeks to catch up with a backlog of surgeries and other medical procedures postponed because of COVID,” said MedRisk COO Mary O’Donoghue. “Our data reflects this with significant fluctuation in post-surgical PT [physical therapy] referrals as states closed and reopened, and this could happen again as cases spike.”
Some workers’ compensation patients did not start or continue physical therapy during the pandemic, MedRisk found. Soft-tissue injuries that do not receive physical therapy treatment tend to have higher medical and indemnity costs than similar claims where PT is not delayed.
MedRisk said it moved quickly to facilitate timely treatment during COVID-19 restrictions, consulting its International Scientific Advisory Board to incorporate its metrics with CDC guidelines in order to help adjusters and patients decide if in-clinic care or telerehabilitation was most appropriate for their case.
“We also expanded hours and the type of cases treated via telerehab, working closely with adjusters and network providers on necessary transitions,” O’Donoghue said. “We saw excellent outcomes and high levels of patient satisfaction.”
MedRisk’s report also showed a significant increase in anxiety and depression among injured workers, which can delay recovery. That data lines up with CDC and American Medical Association data showing a spike in depression, anxiety and substance abuse during 2020.
“Insurers, TPAs and employers need to prepare for the long-term impact of COVID on the duration of care and total medical costs,” O’Donoghue said. “Our new predictive analytics platform and proactive interventions can help identify the high-risk patients and reduce total claims cost – not just PT.”