Treatment, Technology, & Telehealth: Receiving Care During COVID-19
Even prior to a pandemic, an emergency department (“ED”) was one of the last places any person would want to be. Since the known proliferation of COVID-19 in March, 2020, ED numbers have starkly declined by almost half, from 2.1 million visits between March/April, 2019 to 1.2 million visits between March/April, 2020. Of course, one of the contributing factors to this decline was the limited opportunity in which to sustain a trauma-level injury. Massive shutdowns meant less people on the road, which inherently meant less motor vehicle accidents. However, for many people that were injured and required treatment, the thought of going to an ED in the midst of a pandemic was distressing.
This Catch-22 did not go unnoticed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC.”) Recently The CDC, in their weekly mortality and morbidity weekly report, expressly recommended that those needing triage and trauma-level care seek out “virtual visits.” The CDC also acknowledged that those without an established primary care physician/accessible medical provider suffered further. Without treading into fear mongering, it is clear that COVID-19 will be with us one way or another for some time. Embracing and expanding Telehealth services, especially when it comes to personal injury claims, will assist in a dual-purpose way: 1) timely treatment for injured people; and 2) preserving personal injury claims.
It’s something we have all heard from a loved one at some point in our lives: “Go to a doctor.” I heard this from many when I foolishly failed to seek out immediate medical treatment after dislocating my shoulder several years ago. It was a learning lesson and one that I now use as a cautionary tale for many clients who, for whatever reason, express reticence in seeking necessary medical treatment. If you are experiencing pain, it is essential to go to a doctor (or any other qualified medical professional). Beyond the obvious in ensuring you obtain treatment for a noted injury, it is necessary in establishing “harm” in a personal injury claim.
The “harm” suffered in a personal injury claim is often referred to as “damages.” Under Ohio law, damages include many impacts suffered as a result of an injury. Often the largest calculable harm suffered comes in the form of medical damages. These damages include “all expenditures for medical care or treatment, rehabilitation services, or other care, treatment, services, products, or accommodations as a result of an injury or loss to person or property that is a subject of a tort action.” In other words, care from a medical provider is compensable. This is true whether you are standing face-to-face with the medical professional or through the lens of your smartphone/device. With the rapid increase of Telehealth services, a simple Google search should instantly turn up local, virtual providers, including ED-level care. The hope that Broadband and WiFi capacity will continue to grow across all geographical areas over time makes this all the more appealing.
Obtaining appropriate medical care following an injury has always been intrinsically costly, stressful, and time-consuming. This onus has been compounded by an ongoing pandemic. Taking advantage of technology with telehealth services helps preserve your physical wellbeing as well as a personal injury claim.
Remember: Go (virtually) to a doctor.