What Are Telepsychiatry Guidelines For Your Psychiatry Practice?

Psychotherapy online. Video call with doctor and patient. Mental health care. Vector

Telepsychiatry is a growing field, allowing psychiatrists in all locales to expand their practices to patients around the state, if not around the country. If you are considering adding or expanding telepsychiatry in your practice, the seasoned experts at Orbit Health suggest a few things to keep in mind to ensure you continue to provide your patients with the best care without opening yourself up to unnecessary liability or complications.

Present a Professional Environment

Telemedicine offers you the ability to practice from any location, including the comfort of your own home. While that is certainly a significant benefit to the practice of telepsychiatry, it’s important to keep up the veneer of professionalism. Make sure that your telepsychiatry setup is located in a clean, office-like environment.

You should have blank walls, books, or other items behind you that are not a distraction for the patient. Make sure the area is quiet and well-lit and that there will not be any unprofessional interruptions. The sound of children playing or dogs barking can disrupt a patient’s process in the middle of a session and can limit their trust in your professional qualifications. Lighting is very important as well; a patient needs to be able to see your face and your eyes clearly in order to establish trust.

Know Your Legal Limits

Laws and regulations about the practice of telemedicine vary by state. Some states require physicians to visit patients in person at least once before engaging in telemedicine services. Some states limit a physician’s ability to prescribe medicine to patients via teleconference, instead requiring a local physician to sign off. Some states have different licensing requirements for telemedicine; you may be able to practice across state lines in one state while in another you would need a full medical license within the state to practice. Make sure you and your partners all do your due diligence to ensure that you are not exceeding the scope of your practice based on state and local law.

Obtain Informed Consent

Most states require physicians to obtain consent from patients before beginning a telemedicine appointment. Some states permit verbal consent, while others require patients to consent in writing to telemedicine. Electronic signatures will often suffice. Regardless of the means for consent, make sure that the patient understands the structure, requirements, timing, and limitations of telepsychiatry at the outset so that their consent is fully informed.

Evaluate Patient Fitness and Other Standards of Care

Telepsychiatry is simply psychiatry, through the venue of information technology. Make sure to establish and maintain your best standards of care when implementing your telepsychiatry practice and working with patients.

Part of your duty is to evaluate whether your patient is well-suited for telepsychiatry. As valuable an advancement as telepsychiatry may be, it is not for every patient. Patients who are too enfeebled to utilize the technology, or who are too reticent to embrace video-conferencing services to actually benefit from the care you intend to provide, may not be a good fit. Many patients who are hesitant about telepsychiatry at first will quickly move past their discomfort and come to embrace tele-psychiatric care for the convenience that it is. For some, however, telepsychiatry is simply not their best option for treatment.

Establish Good Practices for Your Telehealth Program

All of the same considerations that go into any medical practice are at stake when performing telepsychiatry services, including patient confidentiality, billing practices, protection of private patient data, anti-kickback prohibitions, and all other facets of medical regulation. If you are incorporating telepsychiatry into your practice, you will want to establish a telehealth program in your medical office. Telemedicine requires implementing new technologies, addressing concerns regarding data transfer and protection, billing considerations across multiple jurisdictions, licensing and regulatory concerns, and other matters.

Orbit Health offers training and guidance for healthcare providers looking to establish a telepsychiatry practice. We help you create an effective, well-trained team, with identified roles and an understanding of how to collaborate. Your team will be equipped to handle any issues that may arise as a result of your telepsychiatry practice. If you are looking to add telepsychiatry to your practice, contact Orbit Health for assistance in setting up your telehealth program.

If you are a psychiatrist looking to expand into telepsychiatry, or a healthcare provider who would benefit from qualified, licensed psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.

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