Starting Your Online Practice Off Right
November 10, 2017
You’re a provider wanting to join the ranks of the thousands of behavioral health providers who find new clients online, conduct remote sessions, and leverage a virtual practice, and you’re not sure where to start? We’re going to give you a few tips to get yourself set up for success when accepting online clients.
Seeing clients online can do so many positive things for them. Offering remote services online can increase scheduling flexibility for the client and provider, can increase access to services for clients who may not be able to travel and can, in many cases, actually allow clients to see the provider in a setting where they are most comfortable, their home. If you want to be able to incorporate all of these positive aspects of telemedicine and remote client engagement into your software, there are some important questions you’ll want to ask first.
First and foremost, telehealth is completely legal for any and all providers, states and license types. There is nothing barring any provider from using remote technology to facilitate the care for their clients, but there are some nuances between the legislation from state to state. So, let’s talk about some things to check and consider in your state.
1st Time Interactions
The first questions you’ll want to get answers for when you are thinking about seeing clients entirely online is whether or not your state allows for the first interaction/initial consult with a client to take place remotely. Some states require that you have an in person session with a client and then can proceed with seeing them remotely. This is an important consideration when deciding to offer online only care. The great news is that, especially for behavioral health, the vast majority of states don’t require you to have an established in-person relationship in order to see clients online.
You’ll want to find out from the regulatory body in your state, whether or not you’ll have to include information in your informed consent for treatment that specifically explains you’ll be providing services remotely and what medium(s) you plan to use. Some states, like California, require that you explicitly describe the mode of delivery for your services and that they’ll be furnished via telehealth and some states do not. The wecounsel Resource Center can help you get a jump start on this with one page summaries detailing requirements by state. It’s important for you to identify specifically which information you are required to include and whether it should be a separate consent than the one you use for treatment in general, or if it can be consolidated.
Third, oftentimes the question at the top of each provider’s mind is, “how can I get reimbursed?” Will the insurance carriers you are contracted with reimburse you for services furnished via telehealth? The best way to find out is to ask them. Better yet, the only sure fire way to know is to submit a claim with the GT telehealth modifier and see if they pay you. The landscape for reimbursement is changing daily on this issue. Just recently, Cigna rolled out plans to reimburse for behavioral health services when delivered remotely and the reimbursement is extended to contracted providers in all 50 states. As for out of pocket care, many providers charge the same rates as they would for in person care.
Telemental health can open a world of opportunity to add new revenue streams to your practice and allow you to bring the valuable and vital services you offer as a behavioral health provider to the clients who need it most. Given the ever-changing landscape and regulatory considerations, there is certainly some work to do before you get started, but the questions mentioned above will help you to get off on the right foot.
If you need assistance in navigating this landscape or have questions about the requirements in your state, wecounsel can help! Just reach out to our success team!