The COVID-19 pandemic has caused profound changes in the way we provide mental health services, giving rise to an explosion of virtual care practices and resulting in the formation of new practice guidelines. In response to the pandemic, certain federal privacy regulations were temporarily changed to accommodate the use of technology since in-person sessions were no longer permitted. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services expanded their payment policies to include telehealth as an option, and many insurance companies followed by allowing video sessions and even phone sessions under certain conditions. State governors relaxed licensure requirements and altered policies on the provision of services using telehealth. During this time, even HIPAA enforcement was relaxed, and the HHS Office for Civil Rights exercised its “enforcement discretion,” meaning that it would not impose penalties for noncompliance with regulatory requirements while clinicians provided services “in good faith.”
In light of the changes that were forced upon clinicians, many saw the benefits of using technology that were not evident before. This initiated many mental health professional boards to take a new look at practice guidelines and to quickly make some changes to accommodate this new way of life. At the time of this writing, most changes have been documented as temporary during this global health crisis. However, I believe that within the next year, federal, state, and local guidelines will be reviewed and changed as we move forward with more clinicians deciding to continue providing services to clients via technology.
I have learned that when uncomfortable and seemingly “bad” things happen in my life, it always causes me to look in a direction I may have never looked if that “bad” thing had not occurred. When I am forced to look in this new direction, better things usually present. For example, my job over the last six years has been to travel and present all over the nation, and when the pandemic began, my job ended. After realizing my world was going to be extremely different, I found out about webinars and began presenting my seminars using technology. In addition, because I was at home for two months, I had the time to sit and write this guidebook. Because of all the questions I received every day in my email, I knew this guidebook was needed, so I committed to using my free time to compile the information.
My hope is that those reading this book receive guidance and find resources that will assist you in continuing to help clients with treatment using technology. I also hope that someday I can safely see you all in a live seminar in your hometown. Technology offers us so many options, and many of them are still in our minds. We are only limited by our imaginations when proposing new options. I am excited to see what the next ten years will bring to our field. Additionally, to help you get a start on preparing yourself to provide Telemental Health treatment, I have provided a FREE download of my succinct checklist to Setting Up a Telemental Health Practice.
*This is an excerpt from Telemental Health
by Joni Gilbertson. Copyright © 2020, Joni Gilbertson. PESI Publishing & Media
Virtual care is the new normal. Are you prepared?