Telehealth hybrid framework for adaptation in worker's compensation environments for Injured workers

The final report for Phase 1 - Review of existing evidence around telehealth use and satisfaction.


What it contains

Executive summary

Due to COVID-19, Australia has made changes to health practices, resulting in increased use of telehealth for medical, allied health, and counselling services. The Australian New Zealand Research Collaboration (ANZRC) is sponsoring research to develop a telehealth blueprint for Workers' Compensation settings to support workers with mental health injuries. ANZRC members WorkSafe Victoria, SIRA NSW, and Comcare are participating, with the University of Adelaide's support.

Phase 1 objectives

  • Telehealth strategies that have been evaluated in Australia and internationally with a particular focus on mental health injuries in the work setting.
  • The documented issues encountered by stakeholders while using telehealth for service delivery.
  • Trends in telehealth services.

Phase 1 Findings

Telehealth strategies for mental health injuries used within Australia and internationally:

Australian studies found that Audio/Video telehealth counselling was well received by clients, though clinicians preferred in-person treatment due to concerns about sustainable use of telehealth rapport, and data security. Mental health outcomes and costs improved, and a hybrid approach was effective for severe mental health conditions. International studies from the UK, US, and Canada showed that telehealth is effective in Workers' Compensation and return-to-work settings, establishing therapeutic rapport and leading to comparable or better clinical outcomes than in-person treatment.

The documented issues encountered by stakeholders while using telehealth for service delivery:

The implementation of telehealth services has presented various challenges to stakeholders such as telehealth service providers, clinicians, patients, insurers, and policymakers. These challenges include technical issues, medico-legal concerns, upfront investment in technology and staffing, high drop-out rates, clinician training, cultural appropriateness, payment mechanisms, stable referrals, and service efficiency.

The trends in telehealth services:

Telehealth services were already available in the Medicare Benefits System (MBS) for remote and rural areas before COVID-19. The Australian government expanded these services in response to the pandemic. The utilization of telehealth consultations escalated significantly, rising from 25,000 in February 2020 to 1.1 million in March 2020, reaching its peak at 5.3 million in April 2020, with the highest adoption rates observed in March 2020.