The Eastern Washington Center of Occupational Health & Education, sponsored by St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute in collaboration with the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries, says it has opened a satellite office in Yakima to improve service to communities in Yakima County.
The new office is located in L&I's Yakima regional office at 15 W. Yakima Ave.
COHE streamlines administration of workers' compensation claims by using health-service coordinators and a real-time electronic case-tracking system developed by Inland Northwest Health Services, which operates St. Luke's.
Health-service coordinators help with case management, provide employer and health-care provider training in handling workers' compensation cases, and help resolve conflicts between providers, employers, employees, and L&I, the state's workers' compensation insurance provider.
COHE was launched as a pilot project in 2003 with a center here and one in Renton, Wash., and was expanded in 2008 to include clinics in Seattle and Everett.
The Eastern Washington COHE has a staff of eight people, counting the addition of health service coordinator Kari Isaak to staff the Yakima office. In Spokane, it occupies 1,000 square feet of space on the second floor of the Wells Fargo Financial Center, at 601 W. First.
Under COHE's case-management practices, participating providers are urged to enter patients promptly into the INHS-developed case-tracking system. Through that system, injured workers are monitored by COHE, providers, patients, and employers, with a goal of rehabilitating and returning the injured worker to the workplace as quickly as possible.
Health-care providers in Yakima County who participate in COHE see patients representing 75 percent of the more than 6,000 L&I claims filed there annually, the Eastern Washington COHE office says. Due to the agricultural and manufacturing industry concentrations in that county, it says, there has been a need for more focused assistance from COHE health service coordinators. Having an office in Yakima will allow it to improve its customer service response, including through more face-to-face interaction, it says.
Yakima County currently has 182 participating COHE providers, including four hospital emergency rooms. Additionally, 82 employers and several labor unions there currently participate in COHE.
"The COHE has enjoyed a good affinity with our Yakima County customers, and Kari's presence as health services coordinator will magnify that," says Dan Hansen, Eastern Washington COHE director.
Hansen said in an interview with the Journal last November that its leaders now are working on a plan to elevate it to a statewide program as early as mid-2012.
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