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October 19, 2021, the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation adopted new
regulations addressing the use of telehealth in the context of workers’ compensation
claims. The purpose of the rules is to provide Tennessee workers’ compensation
claimants with an option to utilize telehealth while treating for their
Under the regulations, telehealth may only be provided with the voluntary consent and agreement of the injured worker and the willingness of the healthcare provider. However, telehealth is not permitted for conditions which require an in-person physical examination. The regulations provide several examples of such conditions, including chest pain, significant burns, deformity of an extremity or suspicion of a fracture, and any bleeding that has not already stopped by direct pressure. However, this list is not exhaustive.
The treatment provided via telehealth is subject to utilization review and must follow all Tennessee standards of medical practice. The use of telehealth does not change any of the requirements for causation, date of maximum medical improvement, or permanent impairment ratings.
Employers are still subject to the same requirement to provide a medical panel to injured workers, and the panel must still include at least three medical providers who are qualified, willing, and able to timely treat the worker’s injury in person, but the panel doctors may also provide their services via telehealth with the employee’s consent. Before receiving medical benefits in the form of telehealth, the injured worker must be given an opportunity to receive in-person treatment. An injured worker may refuse a telehealth encounter at the time of the panel choice without affecting future care to which the injured worker is entitled.
The newly revised C-42 Medical Panel form also includes a space for an optional fourth choice of physician, which is a telehealth-only provider. However, this does not alleviate the employer’s obligation to still list three medical providers who can see the employee in person.
At any point during the initial visit or follow-up medical visits, the injured worker may refuse telehealth and request in-person care. If the authorized treating physician who is chosen from the medical panel declines to see the injured worker in person, the worker must select a new authorized treating physician from the names remaining on the original panel. The subsequent choice will become the new authorized treating physician.
The Tennessee Medical Fee Schedule applies to providers of telehealth services, and coding and billing regulations must follow the Medicare guidelines in effect for the date of service with no geographic qualifier.
These new regulations will have several practical effects on the way that employers, carriers, and third-party administrators handle their Tennessee claims, including:
- Medical panels must now be provided on the newly revised medical panel form C-42, which may be found at https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/workforce/documents/Forms/c42.pdf
- Regardless of these new telehealth rules, the medical panel still must include three or more doctors, surgeons, chiropractors, or specialty practice groups who are located in the employee’s community, and who are able to treat the employee in person.
- When completing the medical panel form C-42 with the three medical providers who can see the injured worker in person, the medical panel form also requires that the employer indicate whether those providers also have a telehealth option, and if so, document that on the panel.
- In addition to the three “in-person” medical providers, employers now have the option of including a fourth option, which is a telehealth-only option. However, note that there are several types of medical conditions that cannot be treated by telehealth, and that the injured worker always retains the right to refuse the telehealth option.
For any questions, please contact:
Fredrick R. Baker, Member