5 Misconceptions about Telehealth

I have had many professionals often come to me over last three years with a negative attitude or misconceptions toward telehealth. Every time, I am able to rebuke even the staunchest nay-sayer. The reason being is that the people I was talking to simply had not done their homework and were making generalizations or reaching assumptions. I will say that some have valid concerns, but none that could not be overcome. These types of conversations are to be expected as telehealth is still relatively very new and mental health providers are just now starting to see what a game-changer it really is.For the purposes of this blog post I thought I would address a few of the most common objections I have heard to using telehealth.

If you have an objection that still stands after reading this I challenge you to contact me and voice your concern. Chances are, I can offer you some insight that may change your mind!

1. Telehealth is not legal

When new technology emerges so does new legislation and regulation, just not at the same time; so it is understandable why a lot of people have the misconception that telehealth is not legal. Rest assured, telehealth is completely legal as long as the proper safeguards are in place, many of which are regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). For instance, you need to make sure you use secure, HIPAA-compliant video conference (Skype and Facetime are a BIG no-no).

Furthermore, not only is telehealth legal, it is reimbursable in nearly every state through Medicaid/Medicare. In addition, there are over twenty states that have passed a mandate for private insurance companies to reimburse for telehealth services, with still more following suit with pending pro-telehealth legislation.

Although telehealth is legal, I recommend checking with your state licensing board to see what their policy is concerning telehealth. Some may have different stipulations on appropriate use of telehealth in their policies.

2. Telehealth is costly

Telehealth is more likely to make you money than lose it. I say this because the typical monthly fee for a private practitioner to use telehealth is between $30-$100, which typically equates to less than one session to break even.

Now take into account all that a virtual meeting room can do for your practice: increases your access to clients, can help reduce no-shows/cancellations, and give a general competitive advantage to your practice. Seems like a no-brainer, especially when you use a cloud-based platform, which requires no external hardware. All you need is a computer with a camera and an internet connection.

3. Telehealth isn’t dependable

Videoconferencing has reached a level of dependency that has not existed before. Last Fall, we conducted mock sessions between a college counselor and a student using Wecounsel’s software and we were amazed by the results. We held a demonstration of these mock sessions in front of the Chattanooga Psychotherapy Association and as we watched the audience something clicked inside their heads. While we had talked to their members about telemedicine before, this was different. These therapists saw it in person, in real time, and they got it.

To drive the point home further, we conducted experience surveys with Wecounsel users from Jan 2015 to April 2015 and saw these results. Over 90% rated their experience as good to excellent.

4. If I’m using telehealth software I can treat anybody, anywhere

Because state licensure and regulations are different in every state, providers are not allowed to treat anybody anywhere. The generally accepted rule of thumb is the healthcare provider must be licensed in the state in which the patient or client resides. So, if a provider is licensed in California he or she could treat any California resident from a remote location, whether in or out of the state. However, providers cannot give care to patients/clients that are NOT residents of the state in which they are licensed.

I encourage you to check out your regional telehealth resource center for further clarification or regulatory issues such as this: Telehealth Resource Center (TRC)

5. If my information is on a website, it’s not secure

No information is 100% safe anytime, anywhere. However, some “padlocks” are bigger than others. For instance, our software employs 256 bit SSL platform-wide encryption (well above the minimum standard for HIPAA-Compliancy), while our videoconferencing software employs 128 bit SSL encryption. I would posit that with internet security and HIPAA-compliant safeguards in place your personal information or any client PHI is more secure on an encrypted, HIPAA-compliant platform than sitting in a filing cabinet at an office.