“Telehealth” and Compensation

Oranje v. National Union Fire (BPD) (42 CWCR 279):


Applicant injured her left arm March 14, 2010 and also suffered a psychiatric injury as a result of that injury. The employer accepted liability and provided applicant with medical treatment. This included counseling by California-Licensed MFT whose office was in Lakeport, California.


Applicant moved to Nevada and continued being treated by the California-Licensed MFT by telephone.


Following the hearing the WCJ ruled that the applicant was entitled to further medical treatment in the form of continuing counseling service either face-to-face or by telephone with the California-Licensed MFT.


Defendant’s petition for reconsideration contended that compliance with the WCJ’s order would violate Nevada law because the MFT was not licensed in Nevada.


The WCAB denied reconsideration. The panel indicated that the use of “telemedicine” or “telehealth” has been expanding in California. The Telehealth Advancement Act of 2011, codified in Business and Profession Code 2290.5, expanded covered healthcare providers to include all license healthcare providers including MFT’s. Section 686 allows a licensed healthcare provider to provide services via what the statute defines as “telehealth.”


Section 2290.5, the board indicated, provides for the definitions. This includes the definition of “telehealth” which means the mode of delivering healthcare services and public health using communication technologies to facilitate the diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, and self-management of patients’ healthcare. This applies even if the patient is in the originating site and the healthcare provider is at a distant site.


The WCAB indicated that healthcare practitioners may provide real-time telehealth services from a distance site to a patient’s originating site. Nothing in 2290.5 states that the patient’s originating site must be in California.


A California-licensed health care provider, may therefore provide telehealth services while he or she is in California regardless of where the patient is.


The board went on to state that it is true that, as defendant argued, and MFT must be licensed in Nevada to practice in Nevada, but MFT Jones was in California while providing the telehealth services.


Moreover, whether MFT Jones violated Nevada law was irrelevant. Under California Labor Code 3600.5, a worker injured while regularly employed in California is entitled to compensation according to the law of California. A showing that the treatment was consistent with California Law answered the panel’s only concern.


Reconsideration was denied.

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