How to Manage a Telepsychiatry Practice as a Psychiatrist

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If you are a practicing psychiatrist, expanding your practice into telepsychiatry can open up a world of opportunities. Telepsychiatry allows you to help patients in underserved areas, target your practice in specific fields that excite you, and help to alleviate the myriad problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you plan to build out a telepsychiatry practice, however, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Below, our team of telepsychiatry experts discuss a few important areas to keep in mind when working to manage your telepsychiatry practice.

Establish and Maintain a Proper Telepsychiatry Setup

Effective telepsychiatric care requires more than simply setting up a FaceTime call with a patient. You need to put together the proper infrastructure for telehealth visits. Make sure you have a professional office space, even if you are taking calls from your home office. Limit the number of distractions behind you (typically, a blank wall, soothing art, or a bookcase works well) and ensure you have good lighting from behind the camera. You’ll also need to ensure you have sufficient internet access and Wi-Fi as necessary.

The telemedicine software you use is important as well. Free video-chat software like Zoom, Google, or FaceTime might not be HIPAA-compliant. Although some restrictions were temporarily lifted during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to encourage the use of virtual visits, it’s important to contract with a proper telepsychiatry partner for the long term.

Know Your Patients’ Identity and Location

Before your first session with any patient, make sure you have all of their contact information, including their name, mailing address, and email address. If you’re working with a telemedicine partner, you will have all of this information through their applications. Knowing your patient’s precise location is important because the different jurisdictions may have different licensing and visitation requirements.

Knowing your patient’s location will also better allow you to set up emergency management plans. If your patient is not located in your general area, you’ll need to make sure you have an appropriate emergency support network and backup plan at the patient’s location.

Pick Your Virtual Patients Properly

You may have the cause and means to transition new or existing patients into telepsychiatry. While telemedicine can be beneficial and convenient for many patients, especially in the field of psychiatry, it’s not the best option for every patient. Informed consent means covering the ground rules of telepsychiatry with your patient, including the structure and timing of visits, limitations (such as the ability to prescribe medicine, depending on the patient’s jurisdiction), potential risks, security concerns, mandatory reporting requirements, and billing.

It’s also important to get informed consent from your patients before commencing with telehealthcare. Most states require at least verbal, if not written, consent from patients before starting telemedicine sessions.

Billing, Patient Privacy, and Good Practices

Telepsychiatry does not alleviate any of your typical medical responsibilities concerning patient care. You need to maintain patient confidentiality, protect against security and data breaches, maintain proper billing practices, and avoid running afoul of any other healthcare law issues such as kickbacks. Adding telepsychiatry to those considerations might seem overwhelming at first, but with help from an established telepsychiatry provider, you can easily integrate telepsychiatry into your existing practice.

Depending on the size of your practice, it helps to establish a staff member or team dedicated to managing your telepsychiatry practice, including keeping on top of multi-jurisdictional billing, data transfer and protection, and keeping an eye out for licensing and other regulatory concerns. Working with the right telepsychiatry partner can help ease much of the transition by helping you establish effective and efficient workflows.

If you are a healthcare provider or employer who would benefit from a variety of dedicated, qualified psychiatric care specialists, or a psychiatrist looking to expand your practice into telepsychiatry, call Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.

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