Covid-19 Telehealth Training

Thank you for joining us for today’s telehealth training. This post contains links to the various resources that I discussed via screen share

Disclosures
The webinar represents a partnership between Allina Health (my employer) and the Center for Practice Transformation. Please review my disclosures, especially that bit about seeking counsel from an experienced health lawyer. I’m a medical doctor, not a juris doctor


in partnership with

Platform/Vendor Selection
I use a number of telehealth platforms including Vidyo, Epic Warp Drive and Zoom for Healthcare. I recommend Zoom for Healthcare if you need to get up fast and don’t have an IT department supporting you. It’s literally purchase and practice. Patients just need the Zoom app, which is device and operating system agnostic (and free!)

Solo practitioners and small groups are able to purchase Zoom for Healthcare licenses on a onesie-twosie basis though resellers like LuxSci, which brings the cost down

Make sure you get a Business Associate Agreement to achieve HIPAA compliance (although a safe harbor [waiver] exists during the current public health emergency; please see below)

Scheduling
Use security features. These include meeting passwords and waiting room features [Update: Please see new post for an illustrated explainer]

Conducting Sessions
Socialize individuals and groups to expectations including

  • Physical safety, e.g., no sessions while driving
  • Privacy, especially in shared spaces. Think: Headsets or earbuds on both ends
  • Minimizing environmental distractions (sound, light, motion)
  • Deferring personal activities to personal time: smoking, vaping, eating, toileting, et cetera
  • Video on (especially for groups); audio toggled on/off

Looking & Sounding Professional
Try at all times to exceed the standards of creepy basement YouTubers. The following are small touches that make a big difference

  • Use good lighting. Cheap solutions are readily available on Amazon
  • Place your camera at eye level. Options include putting your laptop on a few reams of paper
  • Use a headset microphone. I like Sennheiser gaming headsets with noise-cancelling microphones
  • Select a bland background. If none is readily available, blow in a virtual background
  • Minimize environmental distractions. Under the current circumstances, that might include your kids and dog
  • Look into your camera often. That’s where your patient is, not elsewhere on your screen (even if that’s where they appear to be)
  • Keep your camera clean (and keyboard, too — wink, wink!). Optical wipes are available through Target and other retailers

Documentation
Payment for telehealth requires that certain elements appear in your visit documentation. The following is the header of my charting templates, where *** are elements that are populated for each encounter

  • Date of Service: ***
  • Start Time: ***
  • End Time: ***
  • Type of Service: Evaluation and management (E/M)
  • Type of Encounter: Telehealth [or: Virtual health]
  • Mode of Transmission: Secure, synchronous, real-time audio and video communication via Vidyo [or: Zoom for Healthcare, et cetera]
  • Originating Site: *** [patient location — city and state]
  • Distant Site: Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Basis for Service: Virtual health, in my judgment, is an appropriate and effective means for providing this service secondary to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing. I have previously seen the patient for traditional in-office care and consider their mental status, including the absence of imminent danger, amenable to virtual care [the final sentence can be edited or deleted]

Collecting Clinical Data
I love scales, measures and patient self-rating forms. The same instruments that I administer in my office can also be administered via telehealth through

I’m also okay with home drug testing provided the panel includes sample validity assays and GC/MS confirmations

Notable Waivers & Exceptions
All sorts of regulatory waivers and exceptions have been granted because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those most relevant to mental health and addiction include

Good luck!


Update: Here’s a link to a recording of the webinar.

Free Telehealth Training

Allina Health is pleased to be partnering with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Practice Transformation on a free telehealth training this Friday, April 3rd, at 12 p.m. The webinar is an adaptation of trainings that John Sutherland, Ph.D., and I have been conducting at Allina in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I will cover a broad range of topics including the logistics of conducting a telehealth encounter. I will also address regulatory issues such as documentation requirements, exceptions to the Ryan Haight Act, deferred enforcement of HIPAA and waivers and modifications granted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Please consider Zoom for Healthcare if you haven’t already landed on a telehealth platform. It is device and operating system agnostic, and many patients are already using it for other reasons (e.g., distance learning for their children). Solo practitioners and small groups are able to purchase licenses on a onesie-twosie basis though resellers like LuxSci, which brings the cost down.

Many thanks to Julie Rohovit, Ph.D., Joe Curtis and the whole gang at the Center for Practice Transformation for spinning up this webinar on very short notice. ✸

Telehealth — How To

I’ve been doing telehealth for a few years. Now everyone wants in due to the coronavirus pandemic. My partner, John Sutherland, Ph.D., and I have been furiously spinning up mental health and addiction clinicians at Allina Health. We transitioned at least 75 providers this week and more will soon follow.

This post will provide some practical advice for those new to telehealth. It comes straight from the trainings that John and I have delivered in recent days.

Keep it Simple
I use a number of telehealth platforms including Vidyo, Epic Warp Drive and Zoom for Healthcare. I recommend Zoom for Healthcare if you need to get up fast and don’t have an IT department supporting you. It’s literally purchase and practice. Patients just need the Zoom app, which is device and operating system agnostic (and free!). Make sure you get a Business Associate Agreement to achieve HIPAA compliance (although a safe harbor [waiver] exists during the current public health emergency).

Be Professional
I remind providers that they are health professionals, not creepy basement YouTubers. The following are small touches that make a big difference

  • Use good lighting. Cheap solutions are readily available on Amazon
  • Place your camera at eye level. Options include putting your laptop on a few reams of paper
  • Use a headset microphone. I like Sennheiser gaming headsets with noise-cancelling microphones
  • Select a bland background. If none is readily available, blow in a virtual background
  • Minimize environmental distractions. Under the current circumstances, that might include your kids and dog
  • Look into your camera often. That’s where your patient is, not elsewhere on your screen (even if that’s where they appear to be)

Documentation
Payment for telehealth requires that certain elements appear in your visit documentation. The following is the header of my charting templates, where *** are elements that are populated for each encounter

  • Date of Service: ***
  • Start Time: ***
  • End Time: ***
  • Type of Service: Evaluation and management (E/M)
  • Type of Encounter: Telehealth [or: Virtual health]
  • Mode of Transmission: Secure, synchronous, real-time audio and video communication via Vidyo
  • Originating Site: *** [patient location — city and state]
  • Distant Site: Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Basis for Service: Virtual health, in my judgment, is an appropriate and effective means for providing this service secondary to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing. I have previously seen the patient for traditional in-office care and consider their mental status, including the absence of imminent danger, amenable to virtual care

Good luck! ✸

ECHO Wrap-Up

I appreciated the opportunity to discuss telehealth during today’s Project ECHO webinar. Here are some of the resources that I mentioned

Please contact me if you have any questions. ✸