MASSACHUSETTS ASSOCIATION FOR OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF SENATE 549 AND HOUSE 578
AN ACT ADVANCING AND EXPANDING ACCESS TO TELEMEDICINE SERVICES
Financial Services Committee
July 18, 2016
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony in support of Senate 549 and House 578, legislation advancing and expanding access to telemedicine services.
The Massachusetts Association for Occupational Therapy is a volunteer organization of occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants representing the profession of occupational therapy to the public throughout the Commonwealth. It is through the professional and dedicated service of the over 7000 licensed occupational therapy practitioners throughout Massachusetts that occupational therapy is viewed as vital in helping individuals, including the elderly, children, and the disabled to lead independent, satisfying, and productive lives. Occupational therapy practitioners provide services in a wide variety of settings including the public sector and private sector.
Occupational therapy practitioners use telehealth as a service delivery model to help clients develop skills; incorporate assistive technology and adaptive techniques; modify work, home, or school environments; and create health-promoting habits and routines. Benefits of a telehealth service delivery model include increased accessibility of services to clients who live in remote or underserved areas, improved access to providers and specialists otherwise unavailable to clients, prevention of unnecessary delays in receiving care, and workforce enhancement through consultation and research among others (Cason, 2012a, 2012b). By removing barriers to accessing care, including social stigma, travel, and socioeconomic and cultural barriers, the use of telehealth as a service delivery model within occupational therapy leads to improved access to care and ameliorates the impact of personnel shortages in underserved areas. Occupational therapy outcomes aligned with telehealth include the facilitation of occupational performance, adaptation, health and wellness, prevention, and quality of life. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has developed a position paper on Telehealth which helps guide this area of practice (AOTA, 2013).
Research has been conducted by occupational therapy practitioners which demonstrate its effectiveness. Published studies support the use of telehealth in improving functional outcomes with individuals with stroke (Chumbler et al., 2010; Hermann et al., 2010), survivors of breast cancer (Hegel et al., 2011), veterans with polytrauma (Bendixen et al., 2008), and individuals with traumatic brain injury (Diamond et al., 2003; Forducey et al., 2003; Girard, 2007; Verburg et al., 2003). Additional studies have used a telehealth service delivery model to evaluate activities of daily living and hand function in individuals with Parkinson’s disease (Hoffman, Russell, Thompson, Vincent, & Nelson, 2008) and other neurological impairments (Savard, Borstad, Tkachuck, Lauderdale, & Conroy, 2003). Seating experts used telehealth to provide remote wheelchair prescription and consultation to individuals with neurological and orthopedic conditions (Barlow, Liu, & Sekulic, 2009; Schein, Schmeler, Holm, Saptono, & Brienza, 2010; Schein et al., 2011). In addition to positive clinical outcomes, evidence indicates a high level of practitioner and client satisfaction associated with a telehealth service delivery model (Kairy, Lehoux, Vincent, & Visintin, 2009; Steel et al., 2011).
Evidence supports the use of a telehealth service delivery model to deliver appropriate early intervention (EI) and school-based services effectively and efficiently (Cason, 2009, 2011; Heimerl & Rasch, 2009; Kelso, Fiechtl, Olsen, & Rule, 2009).
Similarly, evidence supports the use of telehealth for the delivery of occupational therapy services within the school setting for evaluation and intervention (Gallagher, 2004) as well as for reintegration of students with traumatic injury following acute rehabilitation (Verburg, Borthwick, Bennett, & Rumney, 2003).
Schmeler, Schein, McCue, and Betz (2009) detailed the use of assistive technology via a telehealth service delivery model for clinical and vocational applications. Telehealth is also being used to support work through remote assessment and analysis of work spaces. Bruce and Sanford (2006) described using teleconferencing to complete remote assessments and discussed the need for a highly structured and comprehensive assessment tool to be able to complete remote assessments.
We strongly urge this Committee to favorably report these bills. Our patients and clients will be well served by this expansion.
Please see the following link for further clarification on the new regulations that became effective in November 2016:
Additional information about the regulations may be found on the Board of Allied Health Professions web page:
Reminder: All occupational therapy practitioners should be signing their documentation and appropriately using the new professional designation immediately following your name.
Important Information for OT Practitioners
On November 18, 2016, new regulations for Occupational Therapy were put into effect.
The most significant change is that Massachusetts law now requires an OT or an OTA signing any medical record, or any other professional documentation, with the licensee’s name, professional designation, and license number. An example would be Mary Smith, OT, xxxx, / John Doe, OTA, xxxx
Karen J. Hefler, OT
MAOT Government Relations Representative