telemental health

Breakthrough Update

I recently received an update from Breakthrough reporting some exciting changes.  Due to the recent merger with MDLive, some new opportunities will be available starting in 2015.  Here's the main takeaways:

  1.  Breakthrough is beginning to contract directly with insurance companies.  For example, if you are a Texas provider, Breakthrough already has a contract with Aetna that allows them to conduct the benefits and eligibility lookup and they will file the claim for you.
  2. After doing one additional credentialing step, providers will now be able to join large contracted employer groups to receive referrals.  You will receive a flat rate of $60 per session.
  3. Breakthrough reports they will be adding additional contracts with organizations and insurance companies, which could translate into more business for providers.

Technology continues to change the way all businesses are being run.  It seems that online counseling will continue to be a growing market in the 21st century.  There are people that believe this is bad for our field, but I think we either adapt and change with our technological culture, or become obsolete.

Telemental Health

A popular and growing industry in the medical field is telehealth services.  Basically, it's providing medical care and consultation via telephone and internet based services rather than being in the same room with the patient.  I have worked at a halfway house for incarcerated youth for years and this is the way some of the psychiatry appointments are conducted.  Seems to be very beneficial.  It's not a valuable use of the psychiatrist's time to drive all over the state when they can sit in their office and provide the exact same service.  In fact, they can actually treat more patients due to minimizing travel time to each location.

When it comes to utilizing technology in counseling, this appears to be a really good option for counselors.  It's already in use in the medical field, there are HIPAA compliant technologies available, and it's a service that can be used from anywhere.

A couple things to consider.  

  • In many states, you are not allowed to provide counseling services outside of the state that you are licensed.  Personally, I think that's stupid, but until we have a national organization that is able to create license portability so that counselors can offer services to anyone in the US (or world), your license is at risk if you choose to counsel people outside of your state of licensure.
  • There are other ethical and legal considerations, but each state is different.  I recommend starting by reviewing your national and state licensure code of ethics.  You can also contact your associations free legal services (if available) to ask questions about offering counseling services via phone or internet.  Make sure what you are doing is legal and ethical!
  • It's still a relatively new technology.  I think the medical field will start to use telemedicine and telehealth more in the future, which will open doors for other medical professions including psychology and counseling.
  • It might be awkward for you and/or the client.  It's difficult to truly engage a person without seeing them.  BUT, there are now online counseling formats like Breakthrough that allow clinicians and clients to meet via Internet through the use of webcams.  I think this is fantastic opportunity for the future for counseling.  Just imagine, sitting in your home office doing your work instead of spending a bunch of money on office space.  Plus, you are in the comforts of your own home.  You could also grow your business to other markets, especially if you live in a rural town where it is hard to maintain a full caseload of clients.

For more information on this subject, just do a Google search.  There is a ton of information.  The only thing I would caution you is being wary of paying a bunch of money for "certification" in this field.  Currently, there is no recognized certification in telemental health that will provide you any real benefit other than additional knowledge.

Here is an in-depth article written by Rob Reinhardt that can offer further information about telehealth:

http://www.tameyourpractice.com/blog/providing-telehealth-services-opportunities-and-cautions