Telepsychiatry

Our underwriters and risk managers are often asked, “Do you cover telepsychiatry?”  As with all of life’s important questions, the only correct immediate answer is, “It depends.” Of course, no one should accept this as a final answer, so we proceed to ask several other questions before rendering our final decision.

 First, let’s look at the basic definition of the term. When we refer to telepsychiatry, we simply mean “using technology to facilitate psychiatric care at a distance.” The most basic form of telepsychiatry — talking to a patient on the telephone — has been around for over one hundred years.  But to most doctors today, “telepsychiatry” means using email, texting, video-conferencing, social media tools, remotely stored electronic medical records, online video clips, and other cutting edge technology to interact with patients or others.

Here are OUR questions:

– What exactly will you be doing, Doctor? Give us details.

– Have you checked your state’s statutes and medical licensure board rules about the use of technology in providing medical care?

– Will you be able to comply with the relevant statutes or rules?

– Since the services are deemed rendered in the state where the patient is located, will you need any additional licenses from the states where the patients reside?

– Can you deliver an appropriate level of care to the patients you will treat in this way?

– Do you understand that the use of technology and the physical distance between you and the patient or other person your interacting with DOES NOT CHANGE THE STANDARD OF CARE?

The most effective blog posts are just a few hundred words long, and this one is already running close to the unofficial blog limit, so it’s not possible for me to go through the substance behind each of these questions. Furthermore, our risk management staff has already done a great job of outlining the issues for you. Check it out.

If you’re already practicing a little telepsychiatry, is your practice in keeping with our risk management advice? If you’re thinking of getting started, did any of the questions surprise you? Do you have questions we didn’t cover? As always, if you purchased your liability coverage through us, we’ll be happy to help you understand the issues. If you’re not our customer, be sure to check with your own liability carrier to ascertain how they feel about the insurability of telepsychiatry.

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