Online Therapy Promises Added Benefits for Therapists

online-therapy-benefitsRecently, I’ve had several discussions with the folks at ePsych Today provides a virtual office for therapists and psychiatrists, complete with HIPAA-compliant capabilities such as email, video sessions and even medication prescribing.

Online Therapy Expected to Grow Dramatically

Online therapy has been talked about for years, and is a growing area within our field. A recent article in Forbes Magazine estimates that Telehealth will be a ‘Top Health Trend for 2014,’ with a growth rate of over 50%. According to the article, “telehealth is about to experience explosive growth.” In fact, the RNCOS Business Consultancy Services recently released a report “predicting 18.5 percent annual growth in telehealth worldwide through 2018.” Additionally, IHS, a market research firm, “predicts that the U.S. telehealth market will grow to $1.9 billion in 2018 from $240 million today, an annual growth rate of 56 percent.” While these numbers address expected growth for healthcare across the entire spectrum, they show a promising trend for therapists and other mental health providers.

With this rapid growth, its hard not to consider telehealth as a growth possibility for your private practice. The thing that has been most interesting to me in my conversations with ePsych Today is the ability for a therapist to extend their reach, by utilizing this technology, into rural areas and/or across state lines. Apparently, there are 10 states that are underserved in the arena of psychotherapy and psychiatry, who welcome licensed therapists from other states to treat the people in their state.

HIPAA Compliancy is a Real Concern

But how do you reach this new population, while also staying within the HIPAA guidelines? Many therapists are utilizing Skype or FaceTime to have video sessions with clients, but they are at risk to being fined for HIPPA violations using that technology. Because of the possibility of online interception with these technologies, Skype and other similar online video services are not legal modes of communication for online therapy.

I have talked to several therapists recently who like the idea of working from their home, and like the idea of reaching a national population. One problem these therapists face is that their state licensing boards limit them to practicing within their own state.  If that is the case, they can still reach rural areas in their states, thus expanding their reach beyond their own cities.  Additionally, with the expansion of telehealth coverage within the U.S., and state reciprocity for licensure, reach should certainly be expanding.  The map below illustrates the telehealth coverage by state.

Online Therapy Telehealth map from EPSYCH TODAY ARTICLE

Epsychtoday recently published a blog discussing which states cover telehealth. According to the post, “should [the] telehealth industry maintain its current rate of growth and increased awareness, we may be looking at an entirely red map sometime in the not too distant future.” An entirely red map equals a much more open market for national telehealth.

Many of these therapists who are interested in working from home, have been considering coaching as a vehicle to go national. That may not be necessary with this new type of technology, and with these state reciprocity agreements. The technology offered by ePsych Today can not only be leveraged to increase a therapist’s target population, but it also solves the problem of HIPAA compliancy.

What do you think? Have you considered how to expand your client base across state lines, to a national rather than local reach? If you’re using or considering video sessions, what are you doing to be HIPAA compliant?

By: Becky DeGrossa

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