Video Telehealth Guidelines During COVID-19

Friday, September 22 2023

COVID-19 dramatically altered the behavioral health landscape by forcing providers to use video telehealth in their practice. Even in normal times, telehealth is subject to unique ethical and legal requirements. Now, due to the pandemic, certain licensure and privacy requirements have been temporarily waived by state and federal emergency orders. Many legislatures are looking for ways to make the changes permanent. We’ve pulled together resources to help guide you through this rapidly evolving regulatory landscape  

Practicing Across State Lines During COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many providers encounter situations where they may not be located in the same state as their client. SonderMind’s Network Policy #14 requires providers to be licensed in the state where the client is located at the time services are rendered, in addition to the state where the provider primarily practices. Here are some options to consider if your client moves to a state where you aren’t licensed:

  1. Seek temporary authorization to practice in your client’s new state. Many states allow out-of-state providers to continue seeing their clients temporarily until the client finds a new provider. Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many governors and regulatory boards passed emergency declarations allowing out-of-state licensees to practice in-state for the duration of the emergency. See the APA’s Telehealth Guidance By State During Covid-19 for state-specific COVID-19 guidance. Also, check with the licensing board in your client’s state to see what temporary practice options are available. 
  2. Become licensed in the client’s new state. Many states offer licensure by reciprocity/endorsement or participation in a licensure compact like the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, the Nurse Licensure Compact, or the PsyPact. Check with the licensing board in your client’s new state for licensure requirements. 

HIPAA and Video Telehealth Platforms

The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will waive potential penalties for HIPAA violations against healthcare providers that serve clients through everyday communication technologies, such as Skype or FaceTime, during the COVID-19 nationwide emergency (See the HHS website for the announcement and notification on this waiver). However, members should use a HIPAA-compliant platform to treat clients (SonderMind’s platform is HIPAA-compliant ✅).

Ethical Considerations for the Practice of Video Telehealth

Providers should stay up-to-date with the ethics of practicing via video telehealth. In particular, requirements for informed consent and competent practice may vary in this context. See Professional Ethics in Behavioral Health for a discussion of key ethical considerations in behavioral health and links to state ethical codes and other resources. See What Disclosures Do I Need to Provide for informed consent requirements in your state.

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