Guidelines for Using Telehealth for Group Therapy

Tag Archives: Electronic Health Record

Guidelines for Using Telehealth for Group Therapy

telehealth for group therapy

Group therapy uses many of the same approaches as individual therapy and research has shown it can sometimes be more effective. The use of group therapy during the social isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has proven more helpful than ever. Patients connected through virtual telehealth apps form a sense of belonging, build a support system, re-establish a sense of community, and reduce feelings of social isolation even while logging in remotely. While a great tool for behavioral health, using telehealth for group therapy does have some legal and ethical challenges to be cognizant of. However, the future of healthcare is moving towards more self-service options and telehealth is here to stay.

Privacy is a central concern in the legal and ethical framework of using telehealth for group therapy. Group therapy has been infrequently used in telehealth in the past so best practices and guidelines are still emerging. Privacy guidelines have been relaxed due to COVID-19 and the federal government has waived penalties for HIPAA violations through a “good faith” provision for telehealth for the duration of the public health emergency. However, psychologists should still refer to the APA Ethics Code and to the APA Practice Guidelines for Telepsychology

Create detailed consent forms so patients are aware of any risks, benefits and limits to confidentiality while using telehealth for group therapy. It should be clear that these sessions involve multiple people and are conducted outside controlled office settings. Have a policy in place on handling confidentiality breaches such as non-group members coming into the room and overhearing a meeting. 

Advise group members to login for their online session in a space free of distractions, other people and where they can speak freely. They should wear headphones or keep the volume low to prevent anyone nearby from hearing. Tell them to inform others near their location not to disturb them during meeting times. Form policies around whether patients can login via their phones or with their cameras off. Also consider if patients should be allowed to wear a non-threatening disguise to protect their identity while on camera. 

For the best security through your system, use a HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform as those have been evaluated for security, privacy and encryption best practices. Also consider using an embedded telehealth tool that is a part of your Electronic Health Records (EHR) system. That will reduce your workload, prevent errors and lower the risk of burnout. 

While there are many legal and ethical considerations surrounding using telehealth for group therapy, the benefits of group interaction are many. Increased access to healthcare is one of the primary benefits of telehealth. Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of healthcare can be improved with these telehealth technologies. We just need to move carefully forward while thinking about protecting patients’ privacy. 

Alleviate Staffing Shortages with an EHR and Patient Self Services

alleviate staffing shortages with patient self services

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, health clinics were experiencing staffing issues and healthcare workforce understaffing has only been exacerbated now due to the virus. Because of COVID-19 we have encountered loss of life, staff burnout and unprecedented turnover rates. More patients are returning in-person to clinics yet the staffing has not improved. With variants of COVID-19 still keeping clinics very busy, healthcare agencies are looking for help. It is a critical business issue to be unable to fill job openings. Thankfully, that can be aided with technology. Healthcare providers can alleviate staffing shortages, better support staff and reduce turnover rates with an Electronic Health Record (EHR) and patient self services. 

Healthcare IT has a positive impact on practice management, patient care and more efficient use of staff. A great EHR system can streamline workflow, reduce time spent on administrative tasks and give staff more time to focus on patients. This will reduce the stress of your healthcare workers and relieve them from having to work extra hours. When health clinics are already understaffed, finding ways to have limited staff work smarter and not harder is more important than ever.

Not all EHR systems are created equal, and it is important to shop for and evaluate EHRs to find one that truly does meet your needs to lighten employee workload. Prevent your staff from having to use multiple tools or from double entering data with an EHR that is interoperable with other systems you use. This is very important to combating digital burnout and can be a part of becoming a trauma informed organization. When used properly, a great EHR can automate as many tasks as possible to improve staff efficiency, information accuracy and patient care. It can also protect your healthcare workers from undue stress. 

Putting more control into patients’ hands can also reduce staff workload. Contactless Patient Experience apps, patient portals, self check-in, online forms and billing services, etc that are embedded within your EHR can remove administrative burden on healthcare staff. If there is a shortage of staff available for the check-in desk, it helps to have patients do these tasks themselves. Many patients want the convenience and shorter wait times associated with self check-in anyway. Solve two problems at once with these services. 

It is possible to alleviate staffing shortages with an EHR and Patient Self Services. Interoperable healthcare IT technologies and putting more control in the hands of patients is the solution to supporting limited staff. As we stay committed to improving patient care while working towards recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we can rely on these technologies to aid us.

Benefits of an Embedded EHR Telehealth Tool

embedded ehr telehealth tool benefits

The healthcare field is quickly moving towards using telehealth solutions to increase patient care. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred its use with an immediate need to connect patients with clinicians virtually, and now it is here to stay. When looking for a telehealth app for your clinic, consider the benefits of using an embedded EHR telehealth tool over purchasing an external-to-EHR telehealth product. If your telehealth app is embedded into your Electronic Health Record (EHR) system you will save on time, money and frustration.

An embedded EHR telehealth tool is one that is built right into your Electronic Health Records system, requiring no separate product to login to. This creates a more streamlined workflow than having an external and separate tool to learn and incorporate. This will prevent your staff from having to make duplicate entries and juggle between two applications thereby reducing errors, saving time and reducing risk of clinician burnout. 

By using an embedded EHR telehealth tool, one-click creates the functionality you need. One selection creates the telehealth appointments (easy for scheduler staff), starts the visits (easy for provider) and allows the patient to enter the visit (easy for the patient). In the same system you can then create invoices for billing (easy for the billing staff). Changes made while using an embedded EHR telehealth tool would also update the patient’s health records instantaneously. This ensures your clinicians are viewing the latest health information and are able to make clinical documentation while still face-to-face with your patients virtually.

To stay vigilant against cyberattacks, healthcare agencies need to make cybersecurity a priority in every tool and application they use. While there are HIPAA-compliant external telehealth tools available, they can be very expensive add-ons. If you use an embedded EHR telehealth tool as part of a certified Electronic Health Record product, then you can be sure it has been evaluated for security and HIPAA compliance along with the EHR system itself. This can give you confidence that the telehealth tool you are using is a safe choice. It also prevents you from having to purchase an expensive external application.

Health agencies and clinics make bold steps towards the future of healthcare by incorporating telehealth. Telehealth tools increase patient access to the right care, at the right place, at the right time. They save patients time and money and allow clinicians to see more patients. A merged EHR telehealth solution just increases the flow of information even further and gives your team confidence in a secure product that already works within your existing Electronic Health Record workflow.

Patagonia Health now supporting MS Edge Browser

Now supporting MS edge browser

Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Record (EHR) software company serving Public and Behavioral Health, is now supporting MS Edge browser along with Firefox and Chrome. In today’s digital world, data security plays a vital role. Adding this additional browser is a step Patagonia Health is taking to further protect their customer’s patient data from cyberattack.

“Browsers such as Firefox, Chrome and Microsoft Edge tend to be very secure overall because they are open source browsers” says Harbi Dhanjal, Vice President of Engineering, Patagonia Health. “We offer our customers support with multiple secure browsers to help prevent security risks even further. In case any one of these browsers ever has an issue, customers would still have safe alternatives to use.”

Open source browsers are constantly under the microscope for security risks, with many people testing the code for weaknesses and issues. Firefox, Chrome and MS Edge browser are all open source browsers that receive frequent security updates. MS Edge has also been receiving good press for Microsoft’s privacy and security features being both comprehensive and accessible for users. All three browsers are consistently ranked as best overall. 

Patagonia Health is committed to pushing the future of healthcare forward with its innovative and secure EHR technologies. Their modern, cloud and apps-based solution is designed with all of the modern security challenges in mind, utilizing the latest security and encryption best practices. This additional MS Edge browser is just one further step to better serving their customers in Public and Behavioral health. 

About Patagonia Health, Inc.

Patagonia Health, Inc. is a healthcare software supplier with a cloud and apps-based software solution that is designed specifically for Public Health Departments, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), Community Health Centers (CHC) and Behavioral Health agencies. Their solution includes an integrated, federally-certified, Electronic Health Record (EHR), Practice Management (PM) and Billing software. Patagonia Health’s system helps organizations improve workflow, streamline operations and keep focus on patient care. For more information, visit https://patagoniahealth.com.

CDC Beefs up on COVID-19 Reimbursement

cdc covid reimbursement ehr

The CDC and NCHS are making great strides to fund the relief effort of COVID-19. With vaccine distribution at an all time high, clinics across America are searching for ways to provide care to communities through doses, screenings, and hospital care.

With the ongoing pandemic, clinicians across the United States are in need of assistance to continue to provide care to communities. With resources stretched thin, medical practitioners require reimbursement if they are to continue aiding the public. Thankfully, in early February 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) teamed together to announce their plans for relief funding for health care clinics across the United States. Starting with a new release of ICD codes and requirements for reimbursement, the CDC is making rapid steps towards aiding the relief effort in Spring 2021.

Throughout 2020, the CDC has released ICD codes for monitoring the novel coronavirus as it spreads throughout the United States. These codes detail how hospitals, private practitioners, and the public can safely protect against the virus and handle the development of the pandemic. January 1, 2021 saw a new release of these ICD regulations. The CDC and the NCHS have implemented new codes for the classification COVID-19, screening techniques, indirect and direct contact, history with the virus, and effects of the virus on pneumonia, connective tissues, and multisystem inflammatory syndrome. The new codes and classification of the virus help healthcare centers to properly treat and diagnose COVID-19 cases as they come.

With updates on the codes to be published in the near future, many healthcare providers and hospitals are anticipating how this development will affect them. A crucial resource for practitioners has been the CDC guidelines. These guidelines have proved useful in delineating treatment, screening, and disbursement in 2020 and 2019. Treating a great volume of COVID-19 patients has been a great burden for healthcare providers across the nation. In addition to treatment, clinics now face the monumental task of vaccine distribution in the following months. 

The CDC and NCHS are making great strides to fund the relief effort of the virus, as the vaccine is being progressively administered across the country.  Having an electronic health record solution that encompasses all the current codes, COVID-19 screening, and mass vaccination functionality can amplify the success of the response to the virus for treatment and vaccinations.