What Are Common Myths About Telepsychiatry?

Psychology, healthcare, depression, frustration, mental stress medicine, online concept

Telepsychiatry is a rapidly growing practice, but it is still cutting edge. With new technology comes mistaken beliefs based on a lack of information. Below, our seasoned telepsychiatry experts discuss and dispel a few of the more common myths about the practice of telepsychiatry.

Myth: Telepsychiatry Requires Complex Technological Savvy

Many healthcare providers worry whenever new technology is introduced. They worry about any added administrative hassle, technological problems, and the capacity for patients to adapt–especially elderly patients. Telepsychiatry need not be more complex than a Zoom or FaceTime call, with the appropriate vendor. So long as a patient can be put in front of a webcam and a screen, they can receive care via telepsychiatry. Orbit Health offers training and consulting to ensure that your staff is fully capable of all telepsychiatry has to offer.

Myth: Telepsychiatry is Not Secure, Putting Private Patient Data at Risk

Protecting confidential patient data is extremely important in the medical field. Many practitioners are concerned that telemedicine creates additional risk for leaks of patient data in violation of HIPAA rules. Patient data is as protected as healthcare providers protect it. With appropriate security and data-handling practices, there is no reason that telepsychiatry should add any additional risk. Physicians share patient data across cyberspace all the time, regardless of telepsychiatry; so long as you use the appropriate vendors, with appropriate security measures in place, telemedicine adds no additional risk of data disclosure.

It is important, however, to use appropriate technology secured by appropriate vendors. Telemedicine does not mean conducting clinical sessions using free Skype. In order for physicians to transmit private patient data over a system, the system vendor must have in place a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). Unless you have an agreement in place with Microsoft (Skype’s owner), you could run afoul of HIPAA’s Privacy Rules for sharing patient data in an unsecured and non-confidential venue. Certain restrictions were lifted during the coronavirus pandemic, but these will be put back into place as soon as the emergency is declared to be at an end.

Myth: The Standard of Care for Telepsychiatry is Different from in-Person Care

Telepsychiatry is psychiatry through the medium of videoconference technology. The quality of care depends on the practitioner, not the venue. Study after study has shown that patients receive care of at least as high a quality as they receive with in-person visits, and in many cases, patient health is actually better with telepsychiatry. State medical boards hold telepsychiatrists to the same standards with telemedicine as they do with in-person care, and research demonstrates that patients are receiving the same level of care.

Myth: State Licensing Boards Dislike Telepsychiatry

Healthcare providers are often concerned that established authority figures disfavor telemedicine. While it is certainly true that the medical establishment can be resistant to change, licensing boards and state governments around the country have proven remarkably receptive to telemedicine as a budding practice. Given the number of studies demonstrating the effectiveness of telemedicine, licensing boards in many states are removing barriers to telepsychiatry at an increasing rate. Moreover, licensing boards tend to be very responsive when asked about licensure requirements for the practice of telepsychiatry. Board reps are more than happy to explain their current position on the practice, how to obtain the appropriate licenses, and even how to avoid some of the administrative hassles in place in some states.

Myth: Telepsychiatry is Only Useful During the Pandemic

Telemedicine has certainly proven its value during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals and medical offices have had to scramble to find ways to treat patients while curtailing the risk of coronavirus infection. Many patients have simply been unable or unwilling to obtain treatment for anything less than life-threatening conditions for fear of infection. For many patients and care providers, unfortunately, mental health care was not deemed as “essential” given the risk of infection.

Telepsychiatry allowed patients to see psychiatrists without incurring the risk of infection. Patients can visit with mental healthcare professionals either from a secluded office within a hospital or even from their own homes. While this is certainly a valuable time to have telepsychiatry, it is not the only reason for the practice. There are a number of benefits to telepsychiatry, including improved access to psychiatric care, ease of access to specialists, reduced costs, and increased patient satisfaction. None of these benefits will evaporate when the pandemic dies down. Moreover, many patients fear contracting or spreading infection in a hospital environment, regardless of the coronavirus pandemic; telepsychiatry allows these patients to continue getting vital mental health care without worry.

If you are a healthcare provider who would benefit from a variety of dedicated, licensed, and effective psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.

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