Just 1-2 months ago we were watching the news of the Corona Virus in China with the safety and security of nearly 7,000 miles of ocean between us. Today we find this threat on our doorstep and our world-changing all around us. All the things we took for granted are now becoming scarce and inaccessible. We face trying times ahead and many people think it may last for a while. Sustained stressors are one of the known variables that put us at risk for developing depression and anxiety disorders. Once you have a few essentials in place, it is going to be important to think about your mental and emotional wellbeing over the long haul of this crisis. Telehealth will be a great way to receive the services you need and retain your sense of safety and security by not having to go out.

What is Telehealth and How Can it Help During the COVID-19 Crisis?

Telehealth includes both teletherapy and telepsychiatry visits. Teletherapy is a psychotherapy session conducted over the internet using software that allows for both audio and visual display between a therapist and their client. Given the need to social distance at this time to prevent the spread of COVID-19, online therapy provides a convenient work around to be able to receive the services clients want, while protecting themselves and the public at the same time. Clients can remain in the safety of their home and still see highly trained professionals for both their existing mental health issues and be able to discuss and get help in dealing with new anxieties and stress resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. Similarly, telepsychiatry allows a client to have an online med check with their psychiatrist without having to come into the office. Our psychiatrists use Electronic Prescribing, which allows them to send a prescription directly to your pharmacy without you having to bring in a paper script letting you complete the whole process of being seen and getting a prescription from home.

How Does it Work?

Similar to Facetime or Skype, a piece of software is downloaded by both the provider and their client to a device that has both a camera and microphone, which could be a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or another device. The telehealth vendor providing the teleconferencing software has a scheduling mechanism built into the software allowing the provider to schedule a teletherapy/telepsychiatry session with their client at a specified time. An invitation is sent to the client’s email informing them of the date and time of the appointment. Just prior to the scheduled time, both provider and client login to the software and there will be an option to “join the meeting”. Once both parties have joined the conference, they should be able to see and hear each other through their device. At this point, the therapy session or medication check can begin.

How Much is Online Therapy?

In most cases a client’s insurance plan covers telehealth. If your provider is properly licensed, contracted as an in-network provider with your insurance plan, and using HIPAA compliant telehealth software, most insurances cover it the same as an office visit. At I.P.C. all of our providers meet all these criteria, so there is little risk of denial by the insurance company.

What Are the Best Online Therapy Sites and is My Confidentiality Protected?

When it comes to telehealth and confidentiality, the best online vendor sites are those that are HIPAA compliant. This means they are using encrypted software that prevents outside hackers from being able to access and view your sessions thereby ensuring confidentiality. Most teleconferencing software, like Facetime or Skype, is not HIPAA compliant and will not meet the standards of your insurance plan. Many of the other “free” software that is available provides very little in terms of customer service or tech support. In light of COVID-19, the President has temporarily lifted the requirements for using HIPAA compliant software in order to ensure more options for care and service during this time of crisis. At I.P.C., this will not be a worry. We have been using the same HIPAA compliant telehealth vendor for well over a year now. With our telehealth vendor, you will not have to concerned about your confidentiality, and you have access to excellent customer service and tech support to help get you set up to meet with your I.P.C. provider.

Is there a Downside to Telehealth?

Even during normal times, there are many people who prefer telehealth for the ease and convenience that it provides. For those living in rural areas, this may even be the only option to receive care without driving great lengths. If there is a downside to telehealth it may lie in the technology. It is important to make sure you are not using outdated technology, or have a slow internet connection, otherwise the session may be impacted negatively. Poor connections could disrupt the entire session, result in pauses or freezing while the device is trying to catch up and buffer the relay, and this can make for a frustrating and disjointed session. Although somewhat less personal than face to face sessions, this is a small compromise during this time of crisis. The few minor downsides of telehealth are dwarfed by the great benefits that it provides right now when our health and safety need to be number one.

Do not put yourself at risk and neglect your wellbeing. Getting through these trying times requires support and regular mental health services. It does not look like we are going to be able to sprint through this crisis, so it is important to pace yourself to run the marathon and that means putting the right services in place for yourself. If you are interested in having telehealth session, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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Innovative Psychological Consultants

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