The world population has been affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The news is polluted with anxiety-provoking news stories about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself. Most people have drastically altered their daily lives and are secluding themselves from the rest of society or adjusting how they live and work and socialize. This pandemic has placed a sizeable mental burden on everyone, whether they are on the front lives of patient care or trying to care for themselves or loved ones.
Despite the lack of a history of preoccupation with cleanliness and no history of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms, some people are now walking around with disinfectant wipes and sprays and compulsively cleaning surfaces or avoiding contact with everything possible. Retirement funds are shrinking rapidly, stores are temporarily closing, food stores have empty shelves, and the uncertainty about tomorrow is at an all-time high. If you were a relatively low anxiety person before, chances are, your baseline anxiety levels have been notably affected.
The entire medical system is under stress since everyone is anxious about every cough and sniffle and wants to know if they have caught the Corona Virus. This anxiety and social distancing are also placing a significant strain on mental health professionals. People are seeking comfort and refuge from therapists and psychiatrists to reduce their stress and possibly medicate them through this high-stress period. The mental health profession is already understaffed, and this pandemic is placing a massive strain on the system.
The Old School of Psychiatry
The mental health profession has been slow to adopt telemedicine because most patients prefer the intimacy of visiting their therapist or psychiatrist in person, when possible. However, a visit to your mental health provider does not require physical contact, so these visits can easily be done remotely with telepsychiatry. But old habits can be hard to change, and patients still schedule appointments to visit their doctor and discuss their issues. COVID-19 is now forcing mental health professionals to reconsider how they can help their patients remotely. Since many people are practicing social distancing and adhering to the government’s request to self-isolate, the only way to get help is remotely. But are the doctors ready for this sudden change? The answer is not yet, but they need to start making some adjustments to do so if they want to continue helping their patients or help the onslaught of new patients that never sought psychiatric help before because they are stressed in these unprecedented times.
The New School of Psychiatry
With today’s video chatting technology, it is straightforward to communicate with anyone over video if you are connected to the internet and have a smartphone or computer. As long as you and the person you are talking with have the same software, you are good to go. But what if you don’t have the same software or are using different devices; now what do you do? The tricky part for the medical professional is ensuring you can communicate on a video chatting platform that is universally easy to use by your patients. You need to enable this no matter what type of device the patient is using and what software they currently have on their device. The last thing you want to do is have 15 different video chatting software tools to support and try to communicate across. If you are not technical, this can quickly become a nightmare for you and your patients.
The other major consideration is whether or not the software tool you are using is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant. Under normal circumstances, when you communicate with a patient remotely, you must use a HIPAA compliant software tool. However, these are not normal times, and the OCR (Office for Civil Rights) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) has temporarily suspended this HIPAA requirement. Read more about this temporary suspension by clicking here. These considerations are put in effect to make it easy for doctors to start communicating with their patients immediately. That’s great for now, but when the crisis ends, the HIPAA requirements will be enforced again, and you will need to start all over unless you make the correct choice now.
Setting up Telepsychiatry
At My Practice Experts, we provide six core services for patient communication, electronic medical records, technology support, financial accounting, medical billing, and marketing support. Our Patient Communication service is critically important in this time of COVID-19 or Coronavirus. Since some patients are reluctant to leave home to see their mental health provider, you may need to see your patient virtually. We can get you set up within hours on our Zoom conferencing platform so you can begin seeing patients immediately. To find out more about our Patient Communication and other services, please visit My Practice Experts. At My Practice Experts, we enable you to care for your patients while we manage your business.