Update – July 2020:

The temporary telehealth policies mentioned in this article, originally scheduled to expire on July 3, 2020, have been extended into next year. They will now expire June 30, 2021.

Using Telehealth for Washington Workers’ Comp

Even before the COVID-19 emergency, telehealth was becoming much more commonplace. The American Medical Association noted a 53 percent increase in telehealth appointments from 2016 to 2017 alone. L&I is now allowing telehealth appointments for certain treatments related to workers’ comp claims. And, it has temporarily changed its procedures to allow for telehealth visits from home —  including initial evaluations — during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

 

COVID-19 Policy

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, L&I is allowing the first visit with a medical provider after a workplace accident to take place via telehealth. This temporary telehealth policy is in force until July 3, 2020 and may be extended if conditions warrant.

There are a few important conditions to this temporary policy:

  • It is limited to practitioners in the L&I Medical Provider Network
  • The practitioner must ensure that (a) telehealth is appropriate for evaluating the injury and (b) the worker is able and willing to be assessed by telehealth
  • L&I is asking for the Report of Accident to be submitted via the FileFast system, both to eliminate the need for paper and to speed up claim processing.

Standard policy

It is usually a requirement (except during the current COVID-19 emergency) for the worker to be seen in-person for the initial evaluation or when a new Activity Prescription Form is issued. Therefore, telehealth is normally a tool that’s used to facilitate follow-up treatment or referrals to a specialist.

Referrals to telehealth are made in the same way as any other specialist referral, but it is important to note that both referring, and telehealth providers must be licensed to practice one or more of the following:

  • Medicine and surgery (MD)
  • Chiropractic (DC)
  • Dentistry (DDS or DMD)
  • ARNP
  • Osteopathic medicine and surgery (DO)
  • Naturopathic physician (ND)
  • Optometry (OD)
  • Clinical psychologist (PhD, PsyD – cannot refer)
  • Physician assistant (PA)

If the provider making the referral to telehealth is not the attending provider (AP) on the claim, then the AP must be consulted in advance.

Important: L&I requires the telehealth provider to be licensed in the location where the worker is located. If the worker is in Washington state, the provider must be licensed in Washington state, regardless of where the provider is located.

 

Holding Workers’ Comp Appointments by Telehealth

COVID-19 Policy

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, L&I is temporarily allowing telehealth appointments to originate from the injured worker’s home. This temporary telehealth policy is also in force until July 3, 2020 and may be extended if conditions warrant.

Standard policy

Under normal circumstances, the injured worker will travel a short distance to an origination site (such as a doctor’s office, hospital, or health clinic) in their local community. This site will provide all of the equipment necessary for the injured worker to have an appointment with the telehealth provider.

Telehealth appointments are intended to be the same as traditional face-to-face appointments. Providers receive the same payment and no special approvals are needed from L&I. The main requirement from L&I is that the telehealth appointment have full audio/visual connection. This ensures that the injured worker and telehealth provider can see and hear each other in real-time throughout the appointment, just as they would at a face-to-face appointment.

There are certain types of appointments that are not approved for telehealth, in addition to those mentioned above. You can review the full list at: For more information about what services are and are not covered for telehealth, visit this website: https://lni.wa.gov/patient-care/billing-payments/marfsdocs/2019/2019MarfsChapter10.pdf.

 

Learn More About Telehealth for Washington Workers’ Comp

Approach clients can join us by webinar on Thursday, April 30 to hear more about telehealth. Register now at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4040992610855862797

For even more information, download the L&I Telehealth Fact Sheet from our website.