March 17, 2020
OUR TRANSITION TO TELEMENTAL HEALTH AMID THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
With the increasing uncertainty and growing number of individuals infected with the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) in our area, we are temporarily transitioning to only offering telemental health appointments effective Thursday, March 19, 2020. Telemental health (TMH) is a subset of telehealth services that uses online, interactive video conference software to provide mental health services from a distance.
Rationale: In order to slow the spread of the virus, local officials are urging us to all diligently engage in social distancing. This public health strategy aims to limit the strain on our healthcare system and protect our community’s most vulnerable from COVID-19. This was an extremely difficult decision and not one that we have made lightly. The health and safety of our clients, clinicians, and our collective community is our top priority at this time. We will continue monitoring the status of this pandemic and are committed to resuming in-person appointments with the guidance from federal, state, and local officials as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so.
Costs and Insurance Coverage: Session fees and copays for TMH appointments are typically the same as in-person appointments. There are no additional costs associated with TMH services. At this time, most insurance plans with Aetna, Regence BCBS, Medicare, and Optum (Providence and UnitedHealthcare) cover TMH sessions. However, we encourage all clients using insurance to call the number on the back of their insurance card to verify that TMH services are covered by their individual plan.
Logistics: Engaging in TMH sessions is extremely simple and streamlined using our SimplePractice software. You can access your appointment via the internet using a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Ten minutes prior to your appointment you’ll be emailed an individualized link that takes you directly to your video session. The only other thing you’ll need is a quiet, private location for us to meet.
Moving Forward: If you would like to temporarily transition to TMH sessions during this period, please refer to the following checklist for the next steps:
- Review the Getting Started with Telehealth guide on the following pages for instructions on how to connect to your upcoming appointment (also available for your review in the Documents tab of the Client Portal).
- Log-in to the Client Portal to review and electronically sign the Telemental Health Consent Form before your next appointment. Please read this consent thoroughly to fully understand our TMH policies and expectations.
- Call the number on the back of your insurance card to ensure that TMH is covered by your insurance plan. (Please note that Medicare has just been mandated by the President to cover TMH and it is possible that the information may take some time for the customer service representatives to be aware of this mandate).
- Check your email 10 minutes prior to your appointment time for the link to your video session.
***If you would prefer to opt-out of TMH for the period of time that we are not able to offer in-person sessions, please reach out to your clinician via email or phone or cancel your next appointment via the Client Portal. Feel free to reach back out if you change your mind and decide you’d like to meet virtually.
We are so thankful for your flexibility and understanding during this confusing and challenging time. Please reach out to me or your clinician with any questions or concerns as we navigate this difficult and uncomfortable time together.
Barbara Majors, MSW LCSW