DOH launches new telehealth option to expand COVID-19 treatment access

Inunsured Washingtonians will now have access to free telehealth consultations and treatment.

The Washington Department of Health (DOH) recently launched a new telehealth option for patients, which allows those at risk of severe COVID-19 related illness another way to access treatment.

Prior to the new telehealth option, telehealth treatment for COVID-19 was only available to insured patients who received care through a provider that offers telehealth visits, but now the expanded telehealth option allows for telehealth visits for uninsured Washingtonians.

“At DOH, we value equity and innovation, and have embraced those values throughout our COVID-19 response,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. Ensuring that we can equitably connect communities with therapeutics is pivotal so that we can continue our mission of reducing unnecessary death from disease.”

The DOH encourages those who test positive for COVID-19 to discuss treatment options with their primary care provider; when that’s not possible, individuals may set up free telehealth consultations as another option.

If appropriate, individuals can receive a free prescription for pick-up at the nearest pharmacy that offers oral antivirals, which includes over 1,000 sites across the state, according to the DOH.

Telehealth appointments can be set up through the DOH’s telehealth webpage or by calling the DOH COVID-19 call center at 1-800-525-0127.

According to Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer, the goal of the telehealth expansions is to allow all eligible patients who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 related illness to have equitable access to lifesaving treatment options.

“We’re excited to make this service free to everyone with no out of pocket costs so that even those without insurance will be able to access antiviral medications,” said Kwan-Gett. “And by offering telehealth consultations in multiple languages, the program increases access for non-English speakers as well.”

Telehealth appointments are currently available in 240 languages through translation services.

According to the DOH, oral antivirals are important the prevent the hospitalization of high-risk individuals, which include people over the age of 65, people who are pregnant, and people who have chronic medical conditions such as heart, kidney and lung disease, among others.

Paxlovid is one of the most effective COVID-19 treatments which reduces the risk of hospitalization by about 90%, according to the DOH. Paxlovid is only available through a prescription and must be started within five days of symptom onset in order to prevent severe illness or hospitalization.