Telehealth isn’t just a way to connect with clients in underserved areas—it may actually improve the care you give your patients.
1) Some Patients Are More Comfortable Online
“For some, it’s easier to open up online than in person,” says Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, a marriage and family therapist in Agoura Hills, California.
Remote communication can actually help some patients express their feelings better. Video chat can have a similar effect to having a patient lay down during talk therapy. They feel more comfortable because they don’t need to maintain eye contact, but you can still observe their face and body language.
That’s especially true for young people. “I did think it worked really well with a teen,” says Jenn Kennedy, an MFT in Santa Barbara. “I suspect this is because they are more accustomed to technology. While many teens don’t make eye contact and feel distant in the room, with the technology focused on their face they tend to talk more.”
2) Patients Have More Choices
Someone in a small town might have only one therapist near their home. If they try to work with that therapist but don’t develop a good rapport, their treatment will suffer. Telehealth can help patients find a therapist they prefer.
Jusic-LaBerge works with remote patients for just that reason.
“[Telehealth] is a convenient way to work with someone that you click with,” she says. “Some other clients live close, but they may not have enough time in their schedule to fit in the commute to my office, so they meet with me for 50 minutes online.”
3) Keep Your Patients On Schedule
“Remote sessions help clients stay consistent with their care, especially if they travel often,” says Erika Martinez, a psychologist in Miami. “It’s also convenient when a last-minute schedule challenge comes up. We just had terrible weather that flooded the streets, so we met online.”
Meg Waldron, MS, sport psychology, offers telehealth care to all her clients. “Many of my clients are either collegiate or post-collegiate athletes. They have very little time, since they are often juggling school and training, or their job and training. They can set up their phone in a locker room, cafe, or out on the grass, away from roommates and teammates.”
Telehealth helps patients keep their appointments, even if the unexpected happens. For patients in distress, or who can’t afford cancellation fees, a remote calling option may be the key to maintaining their mental health.
4) Treat Patients Who Can’t Leave The House
John Mayer, a Chicago psychologist, meets regularly with remote patients who are “flooded with so much anxiety that they cannot leave their home.”
“I have clients who supplement their face-to-face sessions with remote sessions if they experience struggles such as anxiety or depression,” says Lindsey Huttner, a New York psychotherapist. “Those conditions can prevent them from leaving their home. [With telehealth] my patients are able to still benefit from therapy on that kind of day, when they need it the most.”
5) HIPAA Standards Are Easy To Meet
Providers new to teletherapy are rightfully concerned about confidentiality.
Fortunately, there are plenty of internet videoconferencing services that meet HIPAA standards. For example, our phone-based reservationless conference call service—which many health care providers use—doesn’t capture any patient data. It’s just as private as a one-to-one phone call.
Many therapists swear by telehealth, and they prefer their virtual practice to the old method of in-person meetings. Says Renée Jones, a marriage and family counselor: “I would do all my sessions remotely if all my local clients were comfortable with it.”