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Interpretation of ESHB 1608 for Massage Therapists

18 Aug 2020 4:43 PM | Carl Wilson (Administrator)

You may have received a notice from a DOH listserve about this Bill, if you are signed-up for certain listservs with the DOH. WSMTA has become aware that some massage therapists are confused about what/if this means for massage. I hope this helps.

Interpretation of ESHB 1608 for Massage Therapists: An Act relating to protecting patient care…

The primary intent of this Bill is aimed at healthcare providers that have the ability, in their scope of practice, to provide differential diagnosis. It is primarily about their “right” to counsel and provide information about the full array of treatment alternatives that are available in the community, without the risk of being fired or losing privileges. For example, a provider working at a Catholic Hospital who is afraid they could lose their privileges if they counsel a patient on the Death with Dignity Act, abortion, or birth control. The full text of the Bill can be found here, http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2019-20/Pdf/Bills/House%20Passed%20Legislature/1608-S.PL.pdf?q=20200813114524

What does this Bill mean for LMTs? Let us take the language of this bill and really break it down. How do we as licensed healthcare providers in WA  practice according to the letter of the law and in our patients/clients’ best interest. 

As healthcare providers we have the right and responsibility to provide accurate information to our patients/clients. This bill is spelling out that we MUST present information in a way that…

  1. Is with-in our scope of practice, education, training, and experience.

  2. With-in the accepted standard of care.

  3. Medically accurate

So, let’s look at the definitions that are in WA state statute.

"Health care provider" means a person who is licensed, certified, registered, or otherwise authorized by the law of this state to provide health care in the ordinary course of business or practice of a profession. RCW 70.02.010   

"Massage" and "massage therapy" mean a health care service involving the external manipulation or pressure of soft tissue for therapeutic purposes. Massage therapy includes techniques such as tapping, compressions, friction, reflexology, Swedish gymnastics or movements, gliding, kneading, shaking, and fascial or connective tissue stretching, with or without the aids of superficial heat, cold, water, lubricants, or salts. Massage therapy does not include diagnosis or attempts to adjust or manipulate any articulations of the body or spine or mobilization of these articulations by the use of a thrusting force, nor does it include genital manipulation.

“Medically accurate” means information that is verified or supported by research in compliance with scientific methods, published in peer-review journals, recognized as accurate and objective by professional organizations.

We know this Bill applies to us, as we meet the definition of healthcare provider. If we are going to provide information to, or counsel our patients/clients, we need to make sure that information and counsel stays within scope and is medically accurate. Our scope of practice is limited to external manipulation or pressure of soft tissues for therapeutic purposes and within that limit we need to make sure we focus on passing along information that is supported by research and recognized as accurate. 

This Bill does not speak to this but, remember, you can always suggest that your patient go back to their physician, get a second opinion or try another provider type if they are not making progress.

I hope this helps to clear up any questions that you might have had about this new statute. If you have further questions about your scope of practice limitations, please contact Megan Maxey, Program Manager for Board of Massage at Megan.Maxey@doh.wa.gov.

Marybeth Berney

WSMTA President




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