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How A Private Practitioner Can Start Offering Online Therapy Services

Moving your private practice into the world of telehealth makes your services more accessible and profitable. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many private mental health practitioners made the shift to teletherapy because of the urgent need to minimize the spread of the virus. Patients still value the increased flexibility in how, when, and where they have appointments. Others find that they can be seen sooner because of the broader pool of providers, and still others appreciate that they can continue to avoid unnecessary health risks.

Many providers started seeing patients via one of the numerous online therapy services that popped up in response to the pandemic. While the reduced payment rates may have been worthwhile during the pandemic just to stay in business, many are now wondering how to offer online therapy on their own. A sophisticated behavioral health EHR platform is often the answer.

Professional Considerations for a Private Practitioner

As with any new venture in life, preparation is vital. You should know what procedures to use with various insurers and make sure you are insured to offer therapy online. Understanding what requirements apply to your profession when offering services online will give you confidence as you decide how to implement your plan.

Private practitioners who want to offer online therapy through their practices should look to their professional organizations for guidance. These groups provide specialized information for their specific profession, from explaining the standards of care to finding malpractice insurance providers.

  • The American Psychiatric Association offers a list of resources and a telepsychiatry toolkit. Its webpage provides information for psychiatrists on clinical guidelines and best practices in telehealth.
  • The American Psychological Association has a complete set of guidelines for telepsychology that emphasize the professional’s responsibility to meet the same standards of care as face-to-face visits.
  • The American Counselor’s Association also provides resources for teletherapy tailored to counselors in various settings. The site includes tips for delivering effective teletherapy.

HIPAA and other privacy concerns are still of the utmost importance. With video or phone appointments, the perception of privacy can be just as important as the reality of it. Letting patients know that you’re offering the same level of confidentiality will reassure them. Ensuring that you are using up to date, secure software will give you the confidence that you’re taking every step to protect your patients’ privacy.

Before seeing patients online, you’ll need to ensure your malpractice or professional liability insurance covers virtual care. Most do now, but it’s better not to assume so. Remember that if you hold licenses in multiple states, you will need insurance for each state where you plan to see patients.

See how the insurance companies that you already work with handle billing for services delivered online. Find out which CPT codes and telehealth modifiers each prefers. Ask for authorization numbers and the place-of-service codes that each insurer uses for teletherapy visits.

Make sure the client is physically present in the state where you are licensed. The flexibility of teletherapy services enables people to access care even when traveling. Typically, a patient needs to be in their home state where you are licensed for reimbursement of your services. Even operating on a purely private pay basis, it will be crucial to confirm the location of the patients for liability purposes.

Behavioral Health EHR Platforms Streamline Online Therapy Services

Platforms that combine practice management with behavioral health EHR software offer private practitioners the flexibility to operate their offices online and in person. These platforms provide tools that help established providers integrate an online presence seamlessly into their practice. The same programs fully support new private practitioners building new businesses from the ground up.

While standalone video conferencing apps usually have a few security features, they are not geared specifically toward healthcare situations. Therefore, it’s up to the user to ensure that they have paid for a sufficient encryption level to meet professional standards. Conversely, sophisticated behavioral health EHR systems are designed explicitly for teletherapy. They are constantly updated to guarantee compliance with all relevant regulations.

The versatility of a behavioral health EHR system means that teletherapy appointments are conducted within the context of the whole platform. Visits are linked directly with demographics, assessment, and other information. Teletherapy through a behavioral health EHR platform is typically available via computer and through Apple and Android mobile devices.

Since the whole platform is integrated, the therapist can access the teletherapy system directly from patients’ charts. Assessments are available for quick reference, providing a snapshot of a patient’s mental health status and making measurement-based care easier to implement.

A behavioral health EHR platform minimizes the time spent on front-office tasks. A patient portal reduces the phone time spent dealing with rescheduling, simple questions, and refill requests. Canceled appointments are automatically removed from your schedule, so you know that your calendar is up to date. A patient portal combined with a practice-management system reduces clerical hours and benefits patients.

With a behavioral health EHR platform, integrated claims and eligibility verification can automatically pre-authorize treatment. This helps ensure accurate billing at the point of service. With an incorporated practice management feature, you can also accept online payments.

Final Thoughts

With comprehensive behavioral health EHR platforms like CarePaths, offering online therapy services through their practices is the logical next step for private practitioners.

At CarePaths, we empower therapists to make a smooth transition to offering online therapy with tools like teletherapy services, online scheduling, appointment reminders, secure messaging, and more. Learn how we can help you get up and running fast. Start your free trial today!

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