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Telemedicine Standards in Mental Health

Telemedicine in mental health treatment has been in practice for over 40 years.  When this method of treatment was first introduced, it was reasonable to criticize its lack of security, confidentiality, and effectiveness.  But with advancements in technology and standards being compiled, it can now match face-to-face treatment in all three areas.

Thinking back to the 1960s technology brings memories of rotary dial telephones.  It would be considered high tech to use something more secure than a party line, where people used the same channel of communication at more than one location.  And even then it could not be considered secure.

Confidentiality was a major concern to skeptics since secured phone lines were not common to the public like they are today.  Laws didn’t exist to protect patient confidentiality like they do today either.  This type of security was very expensive, so in most cases it could only be assumed that it was not in place.  Therefore, patients could only get confidential mental health treatment via telemedicine at great personal expense.

Beyond security and confidentiality, effectiveness of 1960s telemedicine was in question.  This is not to question the intent or qualifications of mental health providers at the time.  However, in sessions much can be determined by facial expressions and patient demeanor that cannot be seen over an audio connection.  Unless secure video conferencing was used, which was incredibly expensive, e-therapy was lacking.

Telemedicine has evolved over the decades to where it is now possible for mental health patients to receive confidential and effective treatment from home.  Behavioral healthcare providers need to meet confidentiality standards as required by law for in-house treatment.  And it is now common to see video communication technology almost everywhere.

It is now reasonable to see telemedicine as effective and secure, rather than to be a skeptic.  While most of the general public, as well as professionals, may assume that these improvements have been made, they have not investigated the concrete proof of it.  Telehealth has become a great benefit to patients in widespread rural areas, with those with severe phobias, and others.  

Therapy sessions as well as vital signs can be transmitted over secure communication lines in a reliable manner.  Providers that have kept up with the latest technologies may only require minor hardware and software upgrades to provide tele-mental health.  They most likely have security standards in place if they are already transmitting patient information.

The important thing to note is that all of the technology and security individuals may fear get lost on telemedicine are already in daily use.  Responsible providers make confidentiality a top priority, and the use of technology has its own security standards.  So there is no longer a reason to be skeptical.

The American Telemedicine Association is in the process of compiling a list of standards for use among all telemedicine providers.  While many providers already hold to these standards, it is important they appear in writing for the purposes of adherence and continuity of care.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles is taking steps toward providing telemedicine in mental health and drug treatment.  As we cling to stringent standards at our facilities, the same is true as we move forward in this area.  We already follow confidentiality guidelines and secure technology standards, and will bring those into telemedicine.

We currently provide mental health treatment as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare in alcohol and drug treatment.  If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol dependence, drug addiction, or co-occurring mental health disorders, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.

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