As a nation and throughout Maine communities, there is an ever-increasing need for mental health services. To continue providing quality care during the pandemic, many clinicians, agencies, and mental health workers quickly pivoted from their normal day-to-day operations to include an underused technology—telehealth. The following are three benefits of telehealth services to consider in order to better reach your clients and grow your practice.
Access. If patients have access to a phone, computer and/or WiFi internet, telehealth services may be a great option for continuity of care. Clients who live in a rural setting, don’t have reliable transportation, or have limited mobility, can utilize telehealth right from the comfort of their home without the need or cost to travel. Telehealth sessions may also offer more availability when scheduling, and provide access to health care for those who may be vulnerable to isolation.
Flexibility. Telehealth offers flexibility for both patients and clinicians. With remote and hybrid learning options becoming more prevalent at schools, telehealth may assist those with childcare challenges. With work-from-home policies becoming more popular among organizations, patients and clinicians may be able to schedule their sessions during a part of the day where they couldn’t before. Telehealth services may also be convenient during inclement weather and reaching those with emergency healthcare needs.
Savings. Providing telehealth services to your patients can save time and money. Patients will save money on transportation, childcare costs, and potential health insurance costs and will save time commuting and waiting in the office. As a clinician, you may realize these same benefits, in addition to lower overhead costs, patient retention/new clients, and the ability to be productive in other areas of your practice’s growth.
To get started with telehealth options in your practice, it’s important to consider the following:
- Find a HIPAA compliant platform. A free, HIPAA-compliant option that we often recommend is Doxy.me. There is also a list available here, with popular options including certain subscriptions from Zoom, Skype for Business, Webex and Microsoft teams.
- Establish a BAA (business associate agreement) with your chosen platform vendor. This agreement describes each party’s responsibilities and safeguards used and can enable and ensure HIPAA compliancy.
- Private space. Make sure you and your clients have a safe, private place to conduct your session.
- Secure network. It’s best to ensure that your internet connection is private and secure and you’re able to use encryption where possible.
- Informed Consent Form. You may already use this form at your practice, but it’s wise to include specific instructions, guidelines, and boundaries regarding telehealth.
Providing telehealth services may seem daunting for some clinicians because of lack of technical familiarity, concern regarding quality of clinical care with telehealth versus in- person sessions, or simply being overwhelmed with where to begin. It’s important to note that each clinician and client relationship is unique, and some patients may or may not like this method of providing care. Telehealth is not meant to replace in-person sessions, rather supplement an already existing method of care.
At Health Affiliates Maine, it’s part of our mission to expand access to health care and increase the quality of life for all Mainers. Although not a requirement for affiliation, many of our affiliates are finding that offering telehealth services has greatly impacted their practice in a profound way.