As the world adapts to the ever changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental and behavioral healthcare providers are a step ahead of the curve with telehealth counseling sessions (also known as teletherapy or online therapy).
Formerly, in order to provide HIPAA-compliant telehealth services, practitioners had to connect to a secure, hard-wired line. In fact, many telehealth operations still function this way today. However, as companies like BlueJeans and Zoom developed HIPAA-compliant software that safely and legally protects Personal Health Information (PHI), the mental health field began to embrace telehealth on a larger scale, well before the emergence of COVID-19.
Is Telehealth Secure?
Privacy is a major concern for people seeking mental health services. They want to know their information will be kept confidential. The idea of teletherapy may be especially concerning, since internet communication is not as secure as face-to-face interaction. However, the field of cyber security has advanced a lot in recent years. Online counseling is relatively safe and secure when it uses HIPAA-compliant platforms.
Cyber Security and HIPAA Compliance
Online platforms like BlueJeans use highly secure, encrypted video connectivity to meet HIPAA privacy rules. What does encrypted mean? Encryption is a process by which the data being transferred between you and the therapist (and to other group members, if applicable) is translated into another form (coding language) and is only converted back into video data by a user who has the “key.” In this case, only the people invited to the BlueJeans meeting have the “key.” This kind of encryption ensures that no third party could access the video or audio, even if they hacked into the system, because they don’t have the key to decode it.
Additional Security Measures for Online Therapy
While Rehab After Work takes all necessary precautions to protect our clients’ privacy, we cannot control their home environments. Therefore, we try to educate our clients about how to protect their own privacy. This includes making sure you are alone during a counseling session. If somebody else is in the home, make sure they can’t hear you, especially if there is a conflict between you and someone else in the household.
The American Psychological Association (APA) states that therapists providing telehealth services need to “make [a] reasonable effort to protect and maintain the confidentiality of the data and information relating to their clients/patients and inform them of the potentially increased risks to loss of confidentiality inherent in the use of the telecommunication technologies.”
As mental health care providers, it is our responsibility to stay up to date and informed about all aspects of our practice. Telehealth confidentiality is no different.
Should You Try Teletherapy?
If you are in need of mental health care during the coronavirus outbreak, a telehealth platform can protect you from potential exposure to COVID-19. You can receive mental health services from the safety of your home. Ultimately, you must decide if this service is right for you based on your own preferences and communication styles, but know that telehealth providers are taking every precaution to make sure your information stays safe.
If you’re interested in counseling for substance abuse or addiction, Rehab After Work is accepting new patients and providing services via telehealth. Get in touch with our admissions team to make an appointment.