Telehealth software have supported the treatment of mental health patients. Now, two Maryland licensing boards the Board of Examiners of Psychologist and the Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists have issued a pair of proposed rules, which will set forth practice standards for mental health services that are delivered through telehealth technologies.
Previously the Boards didn’t have any specific practice rules meant only for telehealth. Once these rules are finalized, psychologists, counselors, and therapists using telehealth in their services need to read and apply these new rules to their operations and service models.
Both the rules apply to professionals who deliver care to patients located in Maryland. These rules define telehealth as the "use of interactive audio, video or other telecommunications or electronic media," but excluding an audio only telephone conversations, email, fax or text. Both the rules do not allow treatment based only on an online questionnaire.
The Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists rule permits therapists to conduct the initial patient evaluation via telehealth. The Board of Psychology rule requires an in-person initial evaluation unless the psychologist or psychologist associate mentions in the record the reason for not meeting in person.
Professionals have to confirm the identity of the patient as well as the location and contact information. The professional must also identify contact information for emergency services at the client’s location.
Professionals must also identify everyone at the patient’s location and confirm that these individuals have the permission to hear the client’s health information. Since the term “permitted” is used as opposed to "authorized or "legally authorized" and there is no reference to any state or federal privacy law it implies that other person’s presence is subject to client’s permission and it doesn’t refer to any legal authority.
The Board of Psychology rule with regards to client consent to telehealth services requires “written informed consent,”. The Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists rule requires client’s "written and oral acknowledgement."
Both these rules mention that the standard for services delivered through telehealth is similar to services delivered in-person.