Think you're not doing telehealth? Think again. Although there's no one-size-fits-all definition that cuts across state and/or discipline lines, most agree that telehealth basically involves any electronic method you use to communicate with or about your clients. This can include common things like phones, email and electronic file storage, in addition to video sessions, which is what we typically think of with the term telehealth.
I sometimes hear therapists mention specific software programs they’re using in their practices for tasks like notes, calendar/schedulers, online file storage, billing, video sessions or email and then add something like, “They’re HIPAA compliant. They just don’t – you know – have Business Associate Agreements.”
In the not too distant past, a therapist with some kind of note pad in hand was the norm. It was expected. We were doing our jobs and interested enough in the client to take notes on what they were saying. I was part of that crowd. Although I preferred to write my notes after the client left, I definitely felt that paper notes were the way to go and I burned through many legal pads in the early years of my career.
Most of us have documents like a will, power of attorney and other estate planning instruments either already in place or at least on our “I’ll get to that eventually” list. Far fewer have given much thought to how we would want our clients to be taken care of in the case of our demise or anything else that would cause a sudden interruption in our ability to provide services.
Some people like to point out that encrypted email isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “After all,” they warn, “as soon as someone has access to your username and password, it no longer matters whether your email is encrypted or not.” Well . . . yes. That’s an accurate statement. However, to use that line of reasoning would be like telling us not to bother locking our homes or cars. After all, as soon as someone gets access to your keys, those locks become useless.
PSYBooks’ email not only meets but actually surpasses the HIPAA specifications for encrypted email. HIPAA’s rules for email encryption are broad, giving developers the maximum amount of freedom. This is as it should be. Those who are responsible for writing and maintaining HIPAA/HITECH laws cannot also be expected to keep up with rapid changes in the world of technology the way developers do. Therefore, although HIPAA wisely states that email containing client PHI (Protected Health Information) should be encrypted, it doesn’t specify exactly how that should be done.
The portal is the web-based interface between you and your clients. In a sense, it allows your clients (or anyone else you designate) to have their own “mini” version of PSYBooks that contains just their own data – no one else’s. You can view data they enter on your side and interact with the client about their data, all through the portal.
Short answer? Yes. You can. However, here are some reasons why you may not want to:
Let’s face it. There are LOTS of EHRs on the market and most of us simply don’t have the time, energy, or frankly – interest – to put a lot of effort into researching them. Some therapists have told me that although they’d sort of like to explore EHRs, they begin looking at all the options, get overwhelmed, and decide to put the whole thing off. Although it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, it IS an important decision. An EHR that’s designed well, with attention paid to usability issues so it’s easy to use, can simplify your life enormously and save you a lot of time and money. On the other hand, an EHR that’s poorly designed will have you pulling your hair out and cursing EHRs in general – possibly not realizing that not all EHRs are the same and that there might be better options.
The acronym EHR stands for Electronic Health Record. Originally the term EHR was supposed to mean a very specific thing. It was to be a type of digital (i.e., computerized) practice management system for health care professionals that could “talk to” (i.e., share data with) EHRs of other health care providers and organizations, such as laboratories, specialists, school and workplace clinics, medical imaging facilities, pharmacies, emergency facilities – essentially anyone that might be involved in a patient’s care. Similar products that did NOT automatically have the “talk to everyone” feature were to be referred to by other names, such as EMR (Electronic Medical Record) or simply, practice management system.