6 Things Every Therapist Needs to Know about Telemental Health
By Harrison Tyner
Telehealth is still relatively new and mental health providers are still in the early stages of seeing what a game-changer it really is. Telehealth is reimbursable in nearly every state through Medicaid/Medicare. In addition, there are over twenty states that have passed a mandate for private insurance companies to reimburse for telehealth services, with still more following suit with pending pro-telehealth legislation.
Although telehealth is legal, I recommend checking with your state licensing board to see what their policy is concerning telehealth. Some may have different stipulations on appropriate use of telehealth in their policies.
Here are 6 important things to bear in mind as you consider this route for your own practice.
1. Make sure the video conferencing system you are using is secure and HIPAA-compliant.
The technology you use must be encrypted and have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in place with its data center. That means no Skype and no FaceTime. Trust me, it is worth paying a little extra to use a secure platform to know you are playing by the rules and keeping your client information as secure as possible.
2. There is a wealth of Best Practices Resources: Take an online (e-therapy) certification course or at the very least review the American Telemedicine Association’s best practices.
There are several online CE websites that will provide you with the training you need to be fully prepared to practice online. View WeCounsel’s FAQ section to see a list of options. The ATA lays out guidelines from what to wear during a session to how to respond in the event of an emergency.
3. Don’t cross the line
The state line, that is. Because state licensure and regulations are different in every state, providers are not allowed to treat anybody just anywhere. The generally accepted rule of thumb is the healthcare provider must be licensed in the state in which the patient or client resides. So, if a provider is licensed in California he or she could treat any California resident from a remote location, whether in or out of the state. However, providers cannot give care to patients/clients that are NOT residents of the state in which they are licensed. Rules for coaching and consultative services vary and are often more flexible.
I encourage you to check out your regional telehealth resource center for further clarification or regulatory issues such as this: Telehealth Resource Center (TRC)
4. Familiarize yourself and your client with the telehealth platform you are using.
Navigate your client through the setup process and deal with any minor issues they may have before entering the videoconference. This could be anything from scheduling a session to configuring one’s audiovisual settings.
5. Test the technology beforehand to make sure everything is working properly to ensure the successful start of a telehealth session.
Any number of hiccups can happen when you have a session, particularly when you are just starting out and are not used to the nuances of online sessions. Often a plugin will need to be downloaded and installed if the videoconferencing technology is browser-based and you’re using it for the first time. It’s also helpful to know which operating systems and internet browsers are compatible with you and your client’s telehealth platform – information which can usually be found in the FAQ section of the website.
6. Some Telehealth platforms do much more than just video.
As the demand for telehealth grows, more and more vendors are popping up to choose from. Some offer basic video others offer additional tools, like scheduling and out of pocket billing. There are also a few select telehealth software providers that offer an array of interactive tools that allow providers from which they can manage their entire online practice. Make sure you ask your software provider what their feature capabilities are, if they service your specific need, whether private practice or larger enterprises, and how much each option costs.
To stay in the loop on the best practices in telehealth subscribe to the WeCounsel blog.
Join the Webinar on Monday, August 3
Please join Evan Center, LCPC, Owner/Founder of Center Institute and Center Counseling as she interviews the experts, asking the questions that she hears over and over from therapists regarding telemental health. In a special webinar on August 3, Harrison Tyner, the CEO and President of WeCounsel.com and Dr. Tamela Sadler, a psychologist in private practice and expert in telehealth, will answer your questions and talk about what therapists need to know as they consider incorporating telemental health into their private practice. Register to reserve your space on the webinar. You’re invited to submit your own questions ahead of time using the form below:
Comments are closed.