5 Things All Therapists Should Know About Telemental Health
Telemental health adoption is moving at a rapid pace with federal and state mandates on board with supportive reimbursement structures and policies defining the appropriate uses of telemental health. Currently, 40 states provide reimbursement for telemental health through Medicare and Medicaid, and 23 states require commercial insurance plans to reimburse for telemental health.
As you make plans to expand your therapy delivery modes to include teletherapy, it is important to keep certain guidelines and best practices in mind. Below are five important ones to remember:
1. Take a training course and get to know guidelines and best practices.
A good place to start becoming familiar with standard guidelines is American Telemedicine Association which defines the clinical, technical, and administrative standards for practicing telemedicine. The guide can be accessed here.
Some states require that telemental health practitioners have minimum continuing education credits in order to ethically practice teletherapy. Look for a training company such as YourCeus.com which is qualified to issue telemental health credit hours and/or certification and offers comprehensive, hands-on telemental health training along with training on properly obtaining informed consent from your clients before beginning therapy. Informed consent is needed so that you can protect yourself from liability.
2. Conduct sessions on a secure and HIPAA-complaint video-conferencing system.
Keep in mind that Skype and FaceTime are non-secure, non-compliant modes of conducting therapy virtually. You do not want to risk your clients’ security or your ability to practice ethically and compliantly in order to save the few dollars a secure, compliant platform will cost. At a minimum – you need a platform that is HIPAA compliant, encrypted, and has a Business Associate Agreement in place.
3. Stay inside the lines.
We mean the state lines. A therapist must be licensed in the state in which the patient or client resides. However, this does not limit a therapist or client from having a session if either one is traveling to a remote location.
4. Choose your teletherapy platform wisely.
Remember that some platforms offer additional features such as two way scheduling, record keeping, text alerts, virtual waiting room, secure and encrypted internal email. Remember to check whether the features are offered a la carte with extra charges per feature or comprehensively at one price with flexibility to use just the features that align with your own workflow.
5. Test your chosen technology before your first session.
After you’ve seen a product demo and decided to subscribe to a particular teletherapy platform, make sure you do a test run before your first session. Check which operating systems and browsers are compatible with your chosen software. You may need to update your browser or install a plug-in. Be sure to resolve these minor issues well in advance of your first session. Remember, your comfort level with your platform will determine your client’s ability to adapt to your new mode of delivering therapy.