Telepsychiatry has experienced enormous growth in recent years as healthcare organizations, clinicians and regulators recognize its tremendous potential to increase access to mental health care. As demand for telepsychiatry surges, however, telepsychiatry-related legislation is also on the rise.
Federal and state laws for virtual psychiatry are constantly changing and laws can vary widely from state to state, so it’s essential for organizations to keep up with the latest regulations. Here’s a closer look at how the field is evolving and how organizations can stay ahead on compliance.
An ever-changing landscape
Reimbursement, prescribing practices and establishing the patient-clinician relationship are three key areas for organizations to watch when it comes to telepsychiatry regulations. Major recent changes in the law include the federal SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which is easing restrictions on telehealth visits for substance abuse treatment and prescribing controlled substances via telepsychiatry. The implementation of federal legislation for mental health parity, which ensures equal coverage for mental and physical health conditions, has also helped to pave the way for an uptick in telepsychiatry use.
At the state level, many states have either passed new telepsychiatry regulations, particularly regarding reimbursement, or are awaiting a decision on a proposed bill. For example, Connecticut passed a law last year that enables providers to prescribe certain controlled substances by telemedicine to address the growing need for substance abuse and psychiatric treatment. In addition, Iowa recently enacted a comprehensive telehealth reimbursement bill, and newly adopted Illinois legislation requires the state’s Medicaid program to reimburse mental health professionals and qualified health centers for telepsychiatry services.
Delivering compliant care
In a field as dynamic as telepsychiatry, a strong compliance program can’t be overlooked. First and foremost, it’s essential to ensuring a high standard of patient care. Beyond that, it can help avoid costly penalties, fines or harm to your organization’s reputation.
Keeping up with the latest regulatory changes can be a full-time job, however, potentially taxing resources of organizations that are already stretched thin. To ease the burden on your in-house staff, consider working with an experienced telepsychiatry partner who’s well-versed in all aspects of virtual psychiatry law. Other best practices for compliance include:
- Ensuring your clinicians meet organizational credentialing requirements and are properly licensed to provide care in the correct states.
- Providing telemedicine informed consent documents for patients to sign, if necessary.
- Verifying your program meets all relevant requirements for HIPAA compliance, especially if you plan to record patient sessions.
- Checking that your clinicians follow federal and state prescribing requirements, such as those involving controlled substances.
- Confirming your program meets the criteria for reimbursement for each of your payers.
By monitoring the ever-changing regulatory landscape, your organization can minimize risks and increase access to quality mental healthcare where and when your patients need it most. For more tips on strengthening your compliance program, download our free white paper, “Delivering Compliant Care: A Guide to Telepsychiatry Law.”
Contact us to see how Regroup can partner with your organization to improve access to high-quality, compliant behavioral healthcare through integrated telepsychitry.