How Safe Is Online Therapy?  (HIPAA Compliance)

 

Online therapy is a fast-growing industry nowadays in the digital world.  It offers a wide range of services, from digital assessment to give pieces of advice, and interventions, to dealing with anxiety, depression, and other problems like insomnia.   They even handle work problems, relationship issues, marriage counseling, abuse – almost basically everything a regular office-based therapist offers.

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How Does It Work?

The intervention differs in their setups.   Some do face-to-face treatment as if you’re in an actual office setting where a session is scheduled on a regular weekly basis or whatever is preferred by the patient.  Others just follow the arrangement to match the way apps or websites are designed, which is often a shorter time of treatment than the former.

 

If the earlier form of online therapy is more of text and printed self-help programs, now they have developed the system to make it more sophisticated and efficient and for the patients to benefit most out of the services.  Interventions now include additional features like learning exercises, progress reports, self-monitoring tools, downloadable documents (audio and video files), feedbacks, quizzes, and even games.  Games are incorporated especially for the younger users to attract their interest especially for those with social anxiety disorder and posttraumatic disorders.

 

How Is Assessment Done?

Assessment questionnaires are completed via the website or app. Once submitted, they are automatically scored and interpreted according to the set norms.   The scores are then sent directly to the clinician and the client’s clinical record.

 

A more advanced virtual reality method assesses the sensitivity of particular situations and sensors in smartphones make it possible to trace phenomena continuously like that of sleep, physical activity, speech, use of the device, and even the client’s location.

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All this information is saved up and kept by the online therapy company and clinicians as records, which can be accessed anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances.   The question is how secure is the information?

 

Are They Reliable Concerning Confidentiality?

There are people, I for one, who are very particular regarding confidentiality.  You can say I am a bit of a paranoid when it comes to my personal space, and privacy is quite a huge issue for me.  I am a bit untrusting that I used to be hesitant with the idea of online therapy.  But with the flexibility it offers, saving time and energy, availability, and with almost same effectivity as going to my therapist’s office, I was persuaded to try it.

 

I was really particular about confidentiality and didn’t want to end up enrolling in fly-by-night providers, so I had to do my research.   I found out that online mental health providers are required to adhere with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules that protect both the client and the therapist regarding legal and ethical issues.

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Researching for a reliable provider, it seems almost all digital treatment companies offer the privacy of all documents, videos, and messaging, but are they really HIPAA compliant?  Are they using HIPAA-compliant video platforms for therapy?  These are just some of the things you must check first before sharing information with online mental health providers.

 

There are various ways support can be delivered to the patients, and many are agreeable regarding the efficiency and how they are best helped by digital treatment.  With the advancement in technology and even becoming more advanced in the future, it’s unimaginable how many more people online therapy can reach out to, how many relationships they can salvage, how many lives they can save from committing suicide, even the possibility of preventing committing crimes.

 

Indeed, online therapy had gone a long way and had found its place in the mental healthcare system making the online clinic a commonplace for treatment, guidance, and intervention.

Let’s just be careful in choosing online therapy providers to be sure that the personal details, experiences, worries, and secrets that we are going to entrust to them are in safe hands and will be used appropriately.

An example of this service is betterhelp.com/start/, which can provide assistance to anyone with an issue at a time most convenient to them.