Though telepsychiatry isn't a new practice, telepsychiatry programs have surged in recent years among organizations seeking to improve access to mental health. And as the field grows rapidly, telepsychiatry laws are also changing to help streamline implementation while ensuring quality care. For healthcare organizations, staying on top of the latest privacy, reimbursement and other relevant regulations is an absolute necessity.
In this edition of Ask Regroup, Director of Compliance Geoffrey Dacanay discusses why compliance is a key component of Regroup’s client partnerships, how Regroup guides healthcare organizations on compliance issues, and the biggest legal and regulatory developments for 2019 and beyond.
1. Tell us about your role at Regroup. How do you work with your Regroup colleagues and external partners to help them stay compliant?
My role, and the role of the compliance team, is to provide guidance and oversight to our operational teams on legal and regulatory issues. This helps ensure we’re serving our clients and clinicians effectively. We really seek to understand the nuances of each client partnership and identify any potential risks as regulations evolve. From our initial conversations through deployment and beyond, we’re keeping an eye on these issues so we can proactively address these types of questions.
2. What are the top three things healthcare organizations should know about compliance when implementing telepsychiatry?
Our work with our client partners at Regroup focuses on three key issues: prescribing laws, establishing the patient-physician relationship and reimbursement. These are all areas where laws change quickly, so we make sure to discuss rules and requirements at the beginning of every new partnership. For example, the recently passed SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act is easing restrictions on telehealth visits for substance abuse treatment and prescribing controlled substances via telepsychiatry. Reimbursement laws are particularly complex. States, federal agencies and healthcare organizations are still evolving in order to understand how the use of telemedicine fits in with reimbursement for these services. My team is committed to working with our Regroup colleagues and partner organizations to determine the best process before the client makes their first claim.
3. As telepsychiatry technology evolves, have laws around privacy and other compliance issues been able to keep up?
For the most part, yes. In regard to HIPAA and state privacy laws, there have been standards in place that address some of the nuances of behavioral health, like how psychotherapy notes may or may not be shared without patient consent. Some states have taken longer to adopt specific telemedicine laws or provide guidance on the use of telemedicine or telehealth services. As telepsychiatry continues to expand, things are moving in the right direction.
4. How can a telepsychiatry partner like Regroup help healthcare organizations ensure they’re in compliance?
At the start of every partnership, we undergo a thorough review of all regulatory issues and relevant compliance concerns, so our clients are confident at the start of their telepsychiatry journey. Our internal teams can also bring specific questions to us anytime, even in early conversations with a potential partner, so we can provide clarity and guidance. Some of the most common questions relate to qualifications for offering telepsychiatry services, alignment of clinician types for facilities, and state-specific regulations, such as standards of practice and prescribing requirements.
5. In your client partnerships, which compliance issues are handled by Regroup and which ones are the partner’s responsibility?
We work closely with our partners to address all compliance issues, regardless of which entity bears the responsibility. As far as implementing procedures, Regroup ensures every clinician is appropriately licensed, conducts background checks, and confirms the care they provide meets recognized practice standards. That includes training on the proper use of RegroupConnect™, our videoconferencing care platform for patient encounters. On the partner side, our clients follow proper reimbursement procedures and make sure their staff is obtaining patient consent when needed. Again, our entire team is always available to assist partners with all compliance issues.
6. Has there been a particular instance where the compliance team helped solve a unique challenge for one of Regroup’s partners?
During initial discussions with a client, we came across strict standards of practice and state laws regarding geographic limitations for collaborating clinicians and the applicability of telepsychiatry at particular facility types. Together with our sales team, we researched those requirements, guided the facility to the relevant regulations and encouraged them to review details with their own risk management team to determine whether to move forward. Ultimately, the facility found it met the requirements and we were able to establish a partnership and continue to provide their patients with the care they need.
7. How does the internal culture at Regroup impact the success of its partners?
Since joining Regroup, I’ve seen a willingness from everyone throughout the organization to develop their respective areas of responsibility. This commitment to learning helps Regroup’s business grow and strengthens relationships with our partners. Telepsychiatry is going to continue to grow in order to help more people access quality mental health care. I’m fortunate to be a part of that here.
Contact us to learn more about Regroup's compliant approach to delivering integrated telepsychiatry services.