Telemental health helps to bridge the gaps that exist in providing mental health services to patients, but there are many barriers to providing such services, according to a survey of telemental health laws in all 50 states by law firm Epstein Becker Green (EBG).
"As telemental healthcare gains in popularity, it gives rise to a number of significant legal and regulatory issues, including privacy and security, follow-up care, emergency care, treatment of minors and reimbursement, among other things," René Y. Quashie, report author and senior council in the firm's Health Care and Life Sciences practice, said in an announcement.
A survey published late last year in Telemedicine and e-Health found that telehealth is a clinically and cost-effective manner for treating patients with mental disorders.
The EBG survey examines 12 provider types, such as general telemedicine, psychiatrists, counselors and more, as well as the laws and regulations that apply to each one. It also looks at how each state defines telemedicine, licensing requirements and criteria for establishing a patient-provider relationship, among other factors.
Some highlights from the report include:
- Psychiatrists, for the most part, must adhere to the same obligations as physicians who provide telemedicine.
- In Texas, mental health services are carved out separately from other telehealth requirements.
- Psychologists in New York can use telemedicine if they receive consent from patients and conduct assessments of the patient to ensure it's the right path for care.
- Delaware requires practitioners to conduct a risk-benefit analysis, and from that document findings to determine if a patient is presenting problems, if telehealth will aid the patient and if the patient has an understanding of the technology to receive such services.
The report adds that new technologies also are helping in the growth of telemental services, including the use of mobile apps and "text-therapy" services.
"As telemental health continues to grow and evolve, it will increasingly be viewed as a viable solution by clinicians, payers, and policymakers," study author Amy F. Lerman said in the announcement. "At the same time, legal and regulatory issues will continue to proliferate. The survey breaks new ground for anyone navigating this multifaceted legal landscape."