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New FMLA process benefits both employers and workers

In late June we rolled out a new process for approving and managing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) medical certifications. The result is a standardized and streamlined process that provides benefits for both employers and employees.*

Highlights of the new FMLA process

  • A single point of entry.
    All FMLA leave requests now go to our patient access representatives, who document the requests digitally. This eliminates all paperwork and expedites the start of the review process.
  • Objective and consistent chart reviews.
    Reviews are done by a centralized SMARTeam (Specialized Medical Ability Resource Team), so recommendations on the medical appropriateness of leave requests are consistent, evidence-based, and have fewer variables. Recommendations are then sent to the patient’s care provider for review and approval.
  • Better access to information for patients.
    Injured workers who get care at Kaiser Permanente medical offices are now able to have their FMLA medical certifications delivered online through MyChart, much like they’d receive their lab reports and after-visit summaries.
  • Closer monitoring of patients’ progress.
    Digital documentation is readily available to all team members who are managing and tracking patients’ care and recovery. This allows us to respond more quickly if a patient’s condition seems to be worsening, or if they’re ready to return to work.
  • A focus on reducing time off work.
    Appropriate return to the workforce is helpful for faster recovery and improved morale for patients. The SMARTeam makes sure patients receive medically appropriate time off as “evidence shows that prolonged absence from normal roles, including absence from the workplace, is detrimental to a person’s mental, physical, financial, and social well-being,” says Aren Giske, MD, a Kaiser Permanente occupational medicine physician and the medical director of the SMARTeam Program. “We encourage employers to be flexible with returning employees and consider offering them a modified job if necessary rather than more time off.”

The new process is now in use throughout all our service areas. It’s modeled after a successful program at Kaiser Permanente Northwest.

*Benefits for members on a Kaiser Permanente PPO plan may vary, depending on the provider they see.

All plans offered and underwritten by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc.

©2022 Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington