New telehealth option launched to expand COVID-19 treatment access

To increase access to potentially life-saving medication to treat COVID-19, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has launched a new free telehealth option, available for patients both insured and uninsured. 

The new option is part of the federal government’s Test to Treat initiative. Until now, only insured patients who receive care through a provider that already offers telehealth options have been able to access COVID-19 telehealth treatment. This new program makes telehealth consultations for COVID-19 available to everyone, regardless of insurance status, with no out-of-pocket costs. 

"At DOH, we value equity and innovation, and have embraced those values throughout our COVID-19 response," said Dr. Umair A. Shah, 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 this disease."

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DOH encourages people who test positive for COVID-19 to first discuss treatment options with their primary healthcare provider. In situations where this might not be possible, free telehealth consultations are another option that can make it even easier to access treatment. People who test positive for COVID-19, even with just a self-test, can consult with a provider using a smartphone or computer.

If appropriate, they can receive a free prescription for oral antivirals via delivery or for pick-up at the nearest pharmacy. More than 1,000 sites are available across the state.

Oral antiviral drugs are an important treatment for people who are at a higher risk of hospitalization. This includes patients who are 65 and older, obese, pregnant, suffering from chronic medical conditions or taking immunosuppressant treatments. One of the most effective oral antivirals is Paxlovid, which reduces the risk of hospitalization for COVID-19 by approximately 90 percent. 

RELATED: Anti-viral medication & antibody infusion are COVID-19 treatment options for pregnant people

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There are two options to set up a telehealth appointment – either by visiting DOH’s new telehealth webpage or by calling the DOH COVID-19 call center at 1–800–525–0127. Telehealth providers are available every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Appointments are currently available in 240 languages through translation services. 

"Our goal is for all eligible patients at high risk for severe disease to have equitable access to life-saving COVID-19 treatments," said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, Chief Science Officer.