March 16, 2020 by Adam Malik
Virtual medical assessments could play a significant role in keeping the insurance industry moving along during the COVID-19 pandemic. But conducting such procedures will be changing as people are urged to stay home.
“COVID-19 has brought this up to the surface in terms of how technology can be used for convenience, and for ensuring the insurance industry and claimants are getting the benefits they deserve,” said Gloria Rajkumar, CEO of SIMAC Medical Assessment Centre in Richmond Hill, Ont. “We’re living in a time of technology. We should be utilizing technology to the best of our advantages and for less exposure.”
Until recent events related to COVID-19 came to light, an assessment would involve a client going to a medical facility equipped with the technology capable to conduct the procedure remotely with the assessing doctor. That means having a webcam, internet connection, and the space to do it. The examination would be done through a secure platform developed specifically for this purpose. Additionally, another doctor — a chiropractor, for example — would be present to help the claimant understand what the assessing doctor was asking of them.
In today’s new reality, such assessments would be done through the same platform but from home. An assistant would be with the assessing doctor demonstrating what is being asked of the claimant.
“So we’re trying to do these assessments in a different type of way just to ensure [proper protections are being taken],” Rajkumar said, adding that claimants can still visit a clinic if a client doesn’t have a webcam or adequate internet connection at home.
This isn’t the first time Rajkumar has had to work through a pandemic. But even though SARS raised a level of concern in 2003, it wasn’t as severe as what’s happening with COVID-19.
“While there was an associated level of anxiety with SARS, the disease spread itself was much more contained,” she said. “There weren’t any shutdowns or any pending shutdowns and there weren’t any of these legislative guidelines. [Dealing with issues back then] wasn’t as hard as it’s going to be now in terms of staff, in terms of hours, remotely working from home — all of these things that the industry hasn’t really planned for.”
What Rajkumar wants to see is more people in the insurance space move towards virtual medical assessments so that claimants don’t have to wait. “I want the public, the insurance industry, the lawyers, and the claimants to know that there are alternatives to the normal way we conduct assessments. You don’t have to feel that everything has to shut down.”