ATA issues guidelines for remote mental health services

The American Telemedicine Association this week published best practices for providing mental health services through personal computer webcams and other devices with interactive video capabilities.

The document--"Practice Guidelines For Video-Based Online Mental Health Services"--was developed with input from groups such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Counseling Association and the National Association for Social Workers, as well as payers, academics, technical engineers and others.

It's among the guideline documents available for free at the organization's website, and a companion to the broader "Practice Guidelines for Videoconferencing-based Telemental Health," according to an announcement.

The document offers best practices in three areas: clinical, technical and administrative. It addresses the importance of verifying patient identify and location in order to comply with local laws; appropriate settings, patient safety, connectivity, privacy and more.

Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA could be among those benefiting from the guidelines. It just landed a $1.6 million research grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study the effectiveness of using telehealth to deliver behavioral health services to pediatric patients in community primary care settings.

The project, which will focus on providing services to children in low-income communities, is just one of 51 projects totaling more than $88.5 million that PCORI will be funding this year.

"One of the key strengths of this project will be the emphasis on the partnership between UCLA researchers, the community clinics and the families to develop and test this strategy to bring behavioral health services into the primary care setting using live videoconferencing visits," lead researcher Tumaini R. Coker, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UCLA, said in a statement.

PCORI announced in April plans to invest roughly $68 million in a national infrastructure for advancing comparative effectiveness research. The effort aims to bring together patients, researchers and healthcare systems devoted to research that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare.

To learn more:
- here's the ATA announcement
- download the document (.pdf)
- see other guideline documents
- find the UCLA announcement

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