Following are some of the things I did to launch my practice, with a focus on the aspects that more specifically pertain to telepsychology.
First I wrote an ebook and listed it on Amazon. Since Amazon has its own search engine and algorithms for showcasing its products, I reasoned that an ebook would put my name in front of the people who were searching for what I offer, thus building my visibility and credibility. I chose a title that I thought parents would likely type into an internet search.
Next, I educated myself on a variety of entrepreneurial topics by listening to podcast episodes. There are many podcasts available addressing a wide range of relevant topics.
I focused on the Smart Passive Income (SPI) podcast by Pat Flynn. I found it especially helpful, since he interviews people who have been successful in various online ventures or who have specific expertise to share for those who want to be successful online.
A lot of those people have their own podcasts, so listeners can use the SPI podcast to choose topics they want to learn more about and then look up the people who delve more deeply into topics that are of special interest. Pat Flynn also has useful how-to videos online that teach related skills.
I obtained certification in telepsychology. More jurisdictions are now creating guidelines or requirements specific to the practice of telepsychology. A certificate shows that a clinician has made a substantial investment in the proper delivery of telepsychology services and ensures that clinicians are familiar with a wide range of necessary knowledge to practice telepsychology ethically and competently.
I took a 17-hour telemental health certification program with Person Centered Tech. The program was comprehensive, covering everything from lighting and camera angles to how to plan for and handle client emergencies, as well as HIPAA compliance.
I then selected my digital systems. Selection was based on the needs of my practice, encryption standards, ease of use and each company’s willingness to sign a Business Associate Agreement. It is important to note that many popular systems for video conferencing, electronic payments, texting etc. are not HIPAA-secure.
It is also important to note that, depending on the system or platform, it is possible to be compliant on your end but the clients may not be secure on their end. For example, if a client emails your secure email from their email account, the email will be secure on your end but will be available to their email provider.
Clients must be provided with ways to keep their information entirely secure and must be informed of the risks to confidentiality if they choose to use a non-secure method. I solved this problem by using Hushmail, importing their secure contact form into my website, and then describing everything to clients in the informed consent.
In addition, some systems are HIPAA-secure (or not in violation) for some functions but not others. For instance, some popular payment systems do not fall under the scope of HIPAA if you do not use their invoicing feature. Normal cellular phone service falls under the “conduit exception.” SMS “normal” texting does not.
It was important that my paperwork met all legal and ethical guidelines for both states in which I am licensed, as well as HIPAA. It was necessary to adapt existing examples to ensure compliance as well as relevance (since I provide consultation not psychotherapy).
I utilized a combination of the documents provided as part of the telemental health certificate program I enrolled in: New York State guidelines for telepsychology, Ohio requirements for telepsychology, documents found on the website of my malpractice insurance carrier and templates provided in the book The Paper Office for the Digital Age, Fifth Edition by Edward Zuckerman, Ph.D., and Keely Kolmes, Psy.D.
Together, I have found all of these elements to be useful for constructing a firm foundation of credibility, visibility, compliance and preparedness for my telepsychology practice.
Jennifer Cain, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, licensed in New York State and Ohio. She provides practical parenting solutions for complex challenges through telepsychology. She may be contacted at DrCain@hushmail.com. Her website is www.JenniferCainPhD.com.