Should I Have a ‘Telemed’ Examination In My Workers Compensation Case?

Should I Have a ‘Telemed’ Examination In My Workers Compensation Case?


In recent months, the coronavirus has changed our daily lives in so many ways. One such change is that it has become increasingly common for physicians to offer electronic (or ‘telemed’) appointments, instead of in-person office appointments.

Telemed appointments are now commonly offered for both medical treatment for work injuries and for Qualified Medical Examinations (forensic examinations and reports used to determine disputed issues and obtain evidence for trial if necessary).

At the Law Offices of Marc Francis, workers compensation attorney in Sonoma County, we evaluate every case to determine if a telemed examination is in our client’s best interest.

In a telemed examination the injured worker and doctor meet by video conferencing software, communicating by microphone and camera. This method is intended to address the problem of coronavirus exposure. However, it can also save time by eliminating the need to travel to a doctor’s office in a distant location or sit in the reception area waiting to be seen. This can be a benefit to our clients living in remote areas or those who have limitations on their ability to travel.

But is telemed appropriate for every client or every workers’ compensation case? The short answer is “no”, but there are a number of important factors to be considered before making that decision. These can include the parts of the body injured, factual or medical issues in dispute, communication between the injured worker and doctor, and whether both parties agree on a telemed examination.

Some work injuries are best treated and evaluated in person with the doctor able to do ‘hands on’ examinations of injured body parts, but sometimes that may not be necessary.

For example, if an injured shoulder ‘pops’ when moving the arm, the doctor may need to confirm that finding by manually manipulating the shoulder and feeling the pop. Similarly, if a back injury causes muscle spasms or a knee injury causes leg muscle atrophy (which could affect treatment decisions or disability rating) it may be necessary for the doctor to perform in-person tests and measurements or observations that can’t be correctly done electronically.

On the other hand, a follow-up exam, for example, might be acceptable for telemed depending on the particular medical issues in the case. Also, a psychiatric or psychological evaluation could be done by telemed if the client and doctor both feel the necessary level of communication is present.

Depending on the medical and legal issues in the case an in-person examination may be needed. Examining QME doctors commonly observe the injured worker walk into the room, sit and rise from the chair in the reception area, get on and off the exam table, or perform physical tests. The telemed format can limit the doctor’s ability to make these observations and that can limit the scope of the doctor’s medical findings, which could cause problems in a disputed case.

Communication between the injured worker and doctor is essential to obtaining the best results for our clients. An injured worker may feel uncomfortable discussing medical issues electronically or there may be a language barrier. In such cases, telemed may not be the best way to go.

Another consideration in determining if telemed is acceptable in a particular case can be time delays. With the virus raging many doctors are performing only telemed examinations and are presently unable to say when they will be able to resume in-person appointments.

For the reasons mentioned above, not all cases are appropriate for telemed. This has greatly reduced the available number of medical appointments statewide in the California workers compensation system and can add many months to the time it takes to obtain an award of disability benefits or medical treatment or to prepare a case for settlement or trial.

Finally, the use of telemed for medical treatment or a Qualified Medical Evaluation presently requires the agreement of the injured worker and the employer or insurance carrier. Either or both may have various reasons for agreeing or not agreeing to a telemed examination in a particular case. Every case should be evaluated on its own facts to make the best decision for our injured worker client.

When you need a Santa Rosa workers compensation attorney, Marc Francis is who you need. He has been serving clients in Sonoma County and the greater north Bay Area for years. Give us a call at (707) 664-9675 for a free consultation.

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