Our lives as we know it changed rapidly last week with the detection of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania. Now that the schools are closed and some counties are on quarantine, your options to continue or start mental health treatment may appear to be limited. But there is another way for people to continue to receive services, even while they are at home, and that is through online therapy or “telehealth.”
Fortunately, another change happened this week that was a positive response by the insurance companies in light of the coronavirus — they lifted the barriers for healthcare providers to offer telehealth services to their members.
What is “Telehealth?”
Telehealth is simply another way of saying professional mental health services that are delivered through an online platform. You log on to a HIPAA compliant, secure website and are able to communicate with your therapist through a video chat. This enables the client to access services without all of the hassles of driving to an office, finding childcare, etc.
Telehealth During the Coronavirus
Health and government officials are recommending that people limit interaction with others as much as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. Staying home and not traveling to an office for a therapy appointment supports this goal, while having the option of telehealth allows you to continue or start receiving mental health services. It also helps us to keep our therapists safe by allowing them to work from home.
What Should I Know to Get Started?
Just like having a therapy appointment in the office, you will need to call our administrative assistant to make your initial appointment, fill out your intake forms on our client portal and arrive on time for your appointment.
What is a little bit different is, rather than meeting your therapist at the office, you identify a quiet, private space for your session. Also, have earbuds with a microphone handy to plug into your computer in case there are sound issues. Lastly, having access to reliable, high speed internet will ensure you have good video and sound quality during your therapy session.
Potential Challenges with Using Telehealth Services
One of the biggest obstacles we find clients have to overcome with using telehealth is getting used to this new way of receiving mental healthcare. Trying something new can invite feelings of fear and anxiety. But our staff at Move Forward Counseling can walk you through the process and help get everything set up for you.
Yes, sometimes we experience technical issues, but our therapists are experienced with troubleshooting these problems. We have a backup telehealth platform we can utilize if necessary.
Telehealth services are not appropriate for everyone. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency you are best served by going to an emergency room or calling your local county crisis agency.
Is Telehealth the Right Way to Deal with Coronavirus for Mental Health?
Right now, we believe this is the best solution to continue helping people with their mental health while also taking necessary precautions to maximize our client’s safety and that of our therapists. As a member of our greater community, we believe it’s important for us to do our part in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Insurance Benefits and Telehealth
The three insurance companies that Move Forward Counseling therapists are in-network with — Highmark Blue Shield, Capital Blue Cross and Quest — are all now providing telehealth as a part of its benefit plan. Our administrative assistant can check your benefits and inform you of your co-pay or deductible before your first appointment. You are able to pay for sessions via credit card with your therapist so no need to worry about mailing a check.
Our Telehealth Platform
Move Forward Counseling uses a HIPAA compliant, secure telehealth platform that is integrated in our electronic health record called Theranest. As a backup we use another HIPAA compliant, secure platform called www.doxy.me. We do not use programs like Skype or FaceTime because they are not HIPAA compliant. We also do not typically offer phone only sessions because insurance companies do not cover this type of service.
Is Telehealth Right For You?
While telehealth can provide a convenient option for many people seeking mental health services, it may not be for everyone. Depending on the type of therapy you are receiving it may not translate well to an online platform. But for the majority of our clients and the type of therapy we provide at Move Forward Counseling we believe it will work well for the majority of our clients. And we believe that at a time when the world is responding to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to continue to provide services, especially as the current situation is causing heightened anxiety and fear for many people.
Getting Started with Telehealth at Our Practice
Call our administrative assistant 717-462-7003 ext. 1 who will gather some data to get you started and schedule an appointment for you. She is well trained to match you up with the therapist that will be the best fit for you. Our telehealth platform is easy to use and we can walk you through the process.
We are proud to offer telehealth as a service to all residents of Pennsylvania in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic because we want to be the helpers during this difficult time.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.