Relaxed Policies for Treatment During COVID-19 Can lead to Better Outcomes

19 Mar, 2020 Nancy Grover


Sarasota, FL ( – Injured workers are increasingly being allowed to engage in treatment from home. Companies, and at least one state are relaxing or expanding policies to allow for telemedicine.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation announced it is initiating temporary changes that allow more flexibility in delivery of care to injured workers during the COVID-19 threat.

“Under the current telemedicine policy, the home is excluded as an origination site. However, during this period of crisis, BWC will temporarily permit the injured worker’s home as an acceptable origination site,” the bureau announced. “Providers may synchronously render and bill any of the 40- designated telemedicine services, including but not limited to evaluation and management (E&M) services … and psychotherapy services...”

The bureau is also allowing managed care organizations to authorize telephone visits in lieu of face-to-face meetings “for injured workers in a state of crisis or who are at risk to travel to a face-to-face visit during the state of emergency.” The bureau will, in some cases, waive the requirement for prior authorization from the MCO for telephone services and psychological services.

Several companies that provide physical therapy announced they are allowing more injured workers to be treated from home via telerehab.

“With the ongoing spread of COVID-19 across the United States, it is imperative that we take proper precautions in reducing face-to-face interactions,” said Julian Alexander, CEO of OnSite Physio, in a statement. “If injured workers elect to cancel their in-clinic appointments, or if our providers are closing, we will be offering our Telerehab or Mobile therapy treatment options as an alternative so that they may continue treatment.”

One Call announced it is expanding its offerings of telerehab to injured workers who have been treated in clinics and are reluctant to continue with face-to-face sessions.

MedRisk said it is expanding its telerehab therapy to include patients having their first visits. The company said it is allowing initial visits via telerehab rather than the customary in-person sessions, to ensure injured workers don’t skip therapy for fear of exposure to COVID-19.

“It’s a service we started a few years ago, designed to provide an option to complete physical therapy, if it is clinically appropriate and the injured worker is ready, willing and able. It’s been going very well,” said Mary O’Donoghue, chief Clinical and Product Officer for MedRisk . “What we’re finding now is the need is going to increase. We anticipate more people won’t want to leave their homes, so we’ve been ramping up for weeks.”

O’Donoghue said when it’s appropriate for the injured worker, telerehab has benefits over brick-and-mortar sessions. “We find injured workers who have a hybrid model – brick-and-mortar visits and telerehab vs. just clinical — are saving on average 3 visits per episode of care. I really believe that is driven by the fact that they are getting one-on-one time [with the therapist] and are not distracted by other patients.”

Providing more flexibility to injured workers for their treatments can go a long way to reducing their anxiety during the COVID-19 threat. Managing their fears is a big part of helping them recover.

“They obviously already have anxiety, but now that’s being compounded upon. Just the fear induced by the media and social media coverage,” said Mark Pew, SVP, Produce Development and Marketing for Preferred Medical. “People are really going to need to focus on mental health and appropriately dealing with the anxiety and the fear and dealing with the perspective on what’s going on. It’s different for a 75-year-old with COPD, vs. a 33-year-old person in good health with no comorbidities. In some cases the fear is real; in some it’s probably propagated by what they’re hearing and seeing. Managing the anxiety, the mental health, figuring out ways to chill and understand perspective is going be really key.”

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    About The Author

    • Nancy Grover

      Nancy Grover is a freelance writer having recently retired as the Director, Media Services for She comes to our company with more than 35 years as a broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Grover’s specialties include insurance, workers’ compensation, financial services, substance abuse, healthcare and disability. For 12 years she served as the Program Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. A journalism/speech graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Grover also holds an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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