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
Legislative Activity 2015-2016
Since February 2008, members of MAOT have been actively involved in reviewing the statute and regulations for
occupational therapy (OT). These regulations have not been revised since the implementation of licensure in 1984.
They are outdated and no longer reflect current practice or terminology. The occupational therapy profession has
undergone tremendous growth and change as a result of evolving health care systems, research, and advances
within health care education and practice.
As reported last year, with Governor Baker's term starting in January 2015, part of his transition was Executive
Order 562. He issued a "pause" on all boards, on all regulations. This "pause" concluded in June 2016. All boards
had to review CURRENT regulations (not the new proposed regulations that were approved by the Allied Health Board
in May 2014) and eliminate the "confusing, unnecessary, redundant, and inconsistent". Revisions in the spirit of the
Executive Order 352 were voted on by the Allied Health Board on October 21, 2015. Administration and Finance
then had to review all of the changes submitted by the various professional boards and then the process of the
public hearings could begin.
In June 2016, the revised regulations were approved by Administration and Finance. In summary, the proposed
changes to our outdated 1984 regulations as a result of the Executive Order 562 included the following:
-Documentation-signature with the provider’s name, professional designation, and license number and identification
of types of documentation from the occupational therapist, occupational therapy assistant, and occupational
-Co-signing of documentation-streamlining criteria for co-signing requirements
-Designations-OT, OTA, OT/s (OT student), OTA/s (OTA student), OT/c or OTA/c (OT or OTA applicants practicing
under the direction of a licensee)
MAOT requested additional changes:
1. Change all references from AOTCB to NBCOT. AOTCB disbanded in April 1996.
2. Replace the word “patient” with “client”. The term “client” is more inclusive and is more applicable to the variety
of practice settings for occupational therapy.
3. Change all references to “occupational therapist assistant” to “occupational therapy assistant”.
4. Replace the words “treatment” or “services” to “intervention”. The term “intervention” is more inclusive and is
more applicable to the variety of practice settings for occupational therapy.
Administration and Finance agreed that changes should be made for “AOTCB” to “NBCOT”, changing “patient" to
“client”, and changing “occupational therapist assistant” to “occupational therapy assistant”. Changing the term
“treatment” to “intervention” was felt to be a more significant change than was in the spirit of the Executive Order
562 (which stated, "no Agency shall promulgate a new regulation which has not been reviewed pursuant to this
Order and does not meet the standards set out in this Order.”)
On August 1, 2016, MAOT submitted comments to John Chapman, Undersecretary, Massachusetts Office on
Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations, advocating changes in order to update our professional licensure
regulations. And on August, 2, 2016, a representative from MAOT attended a listening session at Office of
Consumer Affairs and provided oral testimony advocating changes in order to update our professional licensure
regulations and making corrections on the ma.gov website to change all references to occupational therapist
assistant to occupational therapy assistant.
On August 19, 2016, representatives from MAOT and AOTA presented oral testimony and written comments to the
Board of Allied Health Professionals in favor of the proposed (limited) changes and advocated additional changes in
order to update our professional licensure regulations.
On August 25, 2016, the Board of Registration in Allied Health Professionals held a Subcommittee Meeting regarding
Continuing Competency. Draft regulations were developed. Key points include:
-Continuing education for 24 units per licensing cycle (every 2 years) with the same requirements for OT and OTA
and PT and PTA.
-Activities can come from a variety of avenues with some limits on the number of units in various categories (similar
-Lapsed licenses will be subject to additional requirements.
-The Allied Health Board will conduct audits. Documentation must be kept by the licensee.
-The Allied Health Board will have the ability to suspend, require additional units, pay a fine, etc.
-Requirements will include 2 units of jurisprudence and 2 units of ethics per licensing cycle.
-Proposed regulations will be edited and reviewed by the whole Allied Health Board.
-The State will need to have the "pause" lifted (per the Executive Order 562) in order to go forward in the process
for continuing competency regulations.
In August 2016, MAOT submitted edits to the Board of Registration of Allied Health Professionals website to change
all references to occupational therapist assistant to occupational therapy assistant. And they were done!
Licensure is now on-line! DPL is in process of reviewing vendor for Allied Health. The PCS contract is up for renewal.
On September 21, 2016, representatives from OT, AT, and PT met with Charles Borstel, Director of Division of
Professional Licensure, and Robert Fortes, Deputy Director for Policy and Boards, to discuss continued concerns with
outdated regulations and plans to move forward with further revisions.
On October 27, 2016, the revised regulations were voted on by the Board of Allied Health. These revised
regulations will be submitted on November 4, 2016 and changes will take effect on November 18, 2016. The
changes were published on the website on December 14, 2016. PCS will be notified of the changes for licensure
November 2015-Provided testimony in support of Senate Bill 556, An Act Relative to make habilitative services
available to the children of the Commonwealth.
March 2016-A bill was submitted regarding telehealth, but it failed.
June 2016-Conditionally supported House Bill 176, An Act Establishing a board of Physical Therapy, as long as all
three boards can split into separate boards.
The next legislative cycle begins January 17, 2017. Interest has been indicated with respect to telehealth and
mental health parity legislation.
Health Care Reform/Access to Health Care:
On April 28, 2016, a MOAT representative attended an initial organizational meeting, Health Care for All-Mental
Health Parity Coalition. This a Massachusetts Behavioral Health Access and Parity Advocacy Project. MAOT has
attended subsequent meetings and has signed on to letters to various government agencies advocating mental
We continue to work on having occupational therapy included in new Mental Health initiatives that are available to 24
states from SAMSHA.
We will continue to monitor any opportunities that present themselves for occupational therapy in the health, mental
health and education areas.
For more information on legislative matters, go to http://www.malegislature.gov
Contact Karen Hefler, OT, MAOT Government Relations Representative, firstname.lastname@example.org
The next Legislative Session begins in January 2017. Drafts of bills with sponsors need to be ready by mid-November 2016 for a January 20, 2017 filing. Anyone interested in filing a bill or if you have an idea about an issue relevant to OT in Massachusetts, please contact Karen Hefler. email@example.com