Boca Raton, FL – NCCI recently released a new study that examines the impact of the COVID‐19 pandemic on time to treatment for injured workers, and associates costs with the time to treatment for some common WC injuries based on historical information.
The COVID‐19 pandemic and resultant shelter‐in‐place orders disrupted nearly all business activity, especially access to medical care. While the specific timing of disruptions varied by state, April 2020 saw many healthcare facilities suspend all nonurgent medical procedures. This action preserved resources for the potential surge of COVID‐19 patients requiring hospitalization.
As a result, the entire healthcare sector saw a decline in medical care utilization. For workers compensation (WC) in particular, a significant drop in claim volume due to less business activity compounded the decline. Even when many medical care facilities started to resume more normal operations, fear of infection continued to keep many patients from seeking professional medical care.
In the study, NCCI associates costs with the time to treatment for WC claims based on historical information to provide some insight into the impact of postponed medical care for specific WC injuries. The study also compares 2020 data to 2019 and provides findings on time to treatment and the potential cost impact of the COVID‐19 pandemic.
Delays in care associated with the pandemic were limited in both the time frame during which they occurred and in their duration. The overall impact on claim costs directly associated with postponed medical care is uncertain. While still preliminary, the study found no convincing evidence that access to quality care was adversely impacted.
The pandemic’s impact on medical services includes:
- A decline in active claim volume
- An increased use of telemedicine
- Minimal change in both the share and seriousness of injuries treated in an emergency room (ER)
- An increase (after April 2020) in the use of ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) above pre‐pandemic levels
With respect to time to treatment, the pandemic:
- Did not adversely impact access to care, as measured by the time from injury to initial treatment
- Produced a backlog of surgeries in April and May 2020 that diminished throughout the summer
- May have resulted in greater use of noninvasive treatments that, with comparable outcomes, are often preferred over invasive procedures
For four common WC injuries (one back, one shoulder, and two knee injuries), NCCI studied historical experience of how the total incurred cost per case is associated with the time from injury to surgery and found:
- Post‐pandemic delays are typically too short to impact the average incurred cost per case
- The largest cost increases occur for back and shoulder injuries—and only after exceptionally long delays to surgery
- For these four WC injuries, the cost impact due to pandemic‐based suspensions is minimal
Read the free report: NCCI Insights: The Latest Trends in Time to Treatment (PDF)