Telemental health is defined as the provision of behavioral or mental healthcare when the clinician and the client are in different locations at the time of services. Behavioral health services provided when the client and clinician are in the same location are often referred to as "face-to-face", "on-site", "in-person" or "in-office" sessions.
Telehealth is changing the way that patients can access health care, but when new technology meets decades-old federal regulation, tensions will necessarily arise.
When it comes to the intersection between telehealth and HIPAA regulation, there are many common misconceptions about how to run a telehealth practice while maintaining compliance with federal privacy and security standards.
Before we dive into some of the particularities of HIPAA as they apply to telehealth professionals, let's look at some of the basics of HIPAA regulation.
How necessary is professional liability insurance? What if I own my own business? If there is a breach of client data, am I covered?
To answer these questions and more, we asked for help from CPH and Associates, a professional liability insurance agency specialized in the mental health field since 2001. Below, CPH shares some common questions they hear from their insureds in relation to malpractice insurance and telehealth specifically.
Anyone can experience stress or sadness due to a variety of factors such as major life changes, work challenges, health or family issues, and a host of other challenges that can be short-term or long-term, intense or mild, frequent or seldom. People who have experienced trauma, anxiety, or depression are often unaware of the effects on their life and on the lives of those around them; they can become accustomed to it. Some turn to alcohol or other substances in an attempt to “remedy” the symptoms, causing dependency or substance abuse. Because of this, healthcare teams create tools to assess and screen for these behavioral health symptoms.
In early 2019, the Georgia Senate passed two bills addressing telehealth and telemedicine. Both bills address comprehensive healthcare reform in order to reduce costs, increase access, and enhance quality care for Georgia residents. Since 2006, the state of Georgia has addressed telehealth parity law, and continued to address the need and coordination of telehealth care. The most recent bills (Senate Bill 115 and Senate Bill 118) continue to demonstrate how Georgia legislature has updated and revised existing laws.
Online counseling (aka video counseling, virtual counseling, etc.) can be an excellent way to receive mental health care, and its use is gaining popularity for many reasons. If you choose to go this route, here are six steps to a quality video-session with your mental health provider:
Therapists occasionally receive requests from prospective clients looking for faith-based or spiritually integrated counseling. Good therapists might know that they are sensitive to a client’s faith and that they can help them, yet they will often refer the client to a therapist who provides a specific faith-informed therapy. There are two good reasons to do this. First, it is important to provide the client with the best fit for what they are seeking. Second, spiritually integrated therapy truly is a specialization requiring a particular set of competencies and supervised experience.
However, finding a fitting therapist for the client can often be a significant challenge. Conducting a search for a local one, whom the referring therapist has vetted, may yield little to no results. When well-trained spiritually integrated providers offer teletherapy, this can overcome the search obstacle. Many faith-informed therapists have not begun to provide teletherapy; the thought of launching a telehealth program can feel overwhelming for any provider. Some faith-informed therapists and organizations have successfully faced this task by partnering with people who provide the proper training and support.
Some phone systems market themselves especially for healthcare organizations, and for good reason. Not all phone systems are the same. One error that clinicians (and therefore clinical practices) often commit is to take the technology they use in their personal lives and bring it into their healthcare practice, assuming that it is adequate. Traditional phone lines and cellular service is quite secure. However, additional features such as voicemail, faxing, and texting bring added risks to healthcare information. Group practices and larger larger organizations utilize features such as setting on-call procedures, ring groups, automated attendants, and administrator control over all phone accounts. Clients put their trust in their healthcare providers to protect their private information. Using ordinary or traditional phone lines, voicemail, faxing, and texting can jeopardize patients’ sensitive information.