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MedRisk 2021 Outlook Industry Trends Report: Where Do We Go from Here?

Every facet of healthcare has been touched by the COVID-19 pandemic and workers’ compensation has been no exception. In its annual industry trends report, MedRisk examines new patterns in managed physical therapy for injured workers, including shifts in the duration of claims, usage of telerehabilitation, and indemnity and medical costs, as well as what to expect in the year ahead.

Rising Claims Duration, Costs

The deferral of hospital treatments and physical therapy due to COVID-19 has had a serious and lasting impact on injured workers. A key finding from MedRisk’s data tracking is the correlation between the postponement of non-emergency surgeries and the volume of post-surgical PT. This fluctuation is expected to continue into 2021 as the U.S. healthcare system works to catch up on delayed treatment.

MedRisk anticipates a higher number of referrals for post-surgical PT, as well as pre-surgical PT for deconditioned patients preparing for postponed surgery. Recent research from the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California suggests that this delay in medical care may also lead to longer duration overall – which can equate to higher indemnity payments and likely more overall medical expenditure.

Evolving Treatment Needs

In a closer examination of MedRisk’s claims data, it’s clear that not only has the volume and duration of treatment been impacted, the very nature of PT treatment also had to evolve in order to address patient needs emerging from the pandemic.

MedRisk’s well-established telerehabilitation platform saw a 1,772% increase in volume during the months of March, April and May compared to 2019, and telerehab remained a popular choice for patients throughout the summer months. A rise in mental and behavioral health conditions, including anxiety and depression, has reinforced the importance of addressing psychosocial barriers to recovery. As a continued focus of its managed care program, MedRisk identifies these barriers prior to care, so treatment can be modify as needed. And as the healthcare system gets back into full swing, managed physical medicine is expected to play a critical role in the effort to curtail the proliferation of opioids, which saw a surge in recent months.

Learn More

What’s on the horizon for patients, providers, and employers as we usher in 2021? Read up on recent legislative changes, a biomechanics-based approach to preventing remote work injuries, the role of PT in managing long-term musculoskeletal pain, and a renewed focus on patient education as we prepare to take on managed physical medicine “post pandemic.” Click here to read MedRisk’s 2021 Outlook: Industry Trends Report.