COVID-19: Resources and FAQs for your remote practice

Updated May 2020

Our mission at Nirvana Health is to make therapy more accessible and to help therapists build thriving practices. Given the emerging challenges and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, this mission is now more important than ever.

 

Our entire team here embraces this responsibility. Below is a growing list of FAQs we've been updating to reflect questions we've been getting across the mental health community. 

FAQs

We are publishing answers to the most common questions we've received from therapists on COVID-19. 

 

Is there a question you'd like to ask? Feel free to submit one below, and we will get back to you ASAP.

Submit a question

FAQ Answers

  • Providing telehealth​ options to my clients

    • What is telehealth?

      • Telehealth is the use of electronic communication to provide and support healthcare to clients. For mental health therapists, this is inclusive of written, phone, and video-based communications. Given the sensitivities around personal health data, all digital communications will need to be HIPAA-compliant.

    • Can I use FaceTime/Skype/other?

      • Update March 23, 2020-The HHS has announced they will not enforce the use of popular video conferencing applications, including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype, for medical services during this time.

      • We highly recommend use of HIPAA compliant application to protect your client's privacy. Based on our research, we recommend the following applications:

        • Zoom (See our resources page for our licenses)

        • Doxy.me 

        • Mend

        • Vsee.com

    • What do I need to stay HIPAA-compliant? Do I still need a BAA?

      • A BAA is not required during this time, but strongly encouraged over time. As of March 23, 2020, the HHS has specifically outlined that they will not be enforcing standard HIPAA requirements as long as good faith measures to ensure privacy are taken. Good faith measures include notifying patients that these third-party applications potentially introduce privacy risks, and providers should enable all available encryption and privacy modes when using such applications.

        • With that in mind, we strongly recommend a transition plan to a more HIPAA-secure environment. We have outlined example vendors above. Nirvana Health also supplies HIPAA-compliant telehealth packages as well. Please contact us if you would like to learn more. As a way of giving back to our community, we are providing all of these service at cost to providers during this time of crisis.

    • Are phone calls compliant?

      • Yes, they are compliant, but some insurers may not reimburse telehealth that is not audiovisual (see Aetna’s coronavirus FAQ)

    • Any tips for ensuring a smooth telehealth session?

      • Yes! The first thing we recommend is having a strong wifi connection. Other tips we’ve seen be successful:

      • Make sure you are in a designated, secure space that ensures privacy and avoids minimal visual or auditory distractions for your clients..

      • Tell your patients to spend a few minutes before the session relaxing and clearing their mind. With telehealth, patients can be working or doing something else until the second they join the video session, which can make it very difficult to shift gears.

      • Keep background noise to an absolute minimum. We understand this can be difficult as providers work from home, but it is crucial to maintaining a professional atmosphere.

  • Billing and reimbursement for telehealth

    • Do I need to bill differently?

      • Yes. If you are billing a private insurer, you should add 95 as a modifier to your usual CPT code. If you are billing Medicare, the modifier should be GT. You should also use the “place of service” code 02.

    • Will my reimbursement be the same?

      • Most likely yes. CMS has announced that they are loosening regulations on telehealth and will be reimbursing telehealth care in light of COVID-19. Prior to COVID-19, some private insurers were requiring providers to seek approval to offer telehealth services.

      • As more guidance comes out from individual insurers, we will update this page. 

    • Do my clients need to do anything differently?

      • No.

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  • Onboarding new clients remotely

    • How do I onboard new clients to my practice?

      • It’s important for your potential clients to be able to onboard and access your care as easily as possible. If you’re used to onboarding clients in-office, this means you’ll need to transition to a digital format that is HIPAA-compliant. Thankfully, making the switch is easy (see vendor options below).

    • What options do I have to have clients sign documents remotely?

      • Some EHR services already provide this service. Otherwise, there are several vendors that will suffice:

        • Docusign (ie-Nirvana Health rate at $2.40 per client)

        • Signnow

        • Hellosign

        • As base prices can be expensive, we are providing our licenses for free and are providing free support for your transition (see our Resources section)​​

  • Managing finances & operations for a remote practice

    • I’m nervous about my practice. How do I even begin to prepare for the next few months?

      • Whether you’re a private practice or part of a group practice, it’s hard not to think about your finances during such times. Preparing for the next few weeks or months may mean changes to your practice or operations. 

      • As a start, we recommend working through the following questions:

        • Of my current clients, how many are likely to transition to remote teletherapy sessions? Is this enough?

        • Do I currently have access to new clients? (e.g.-referrals or therapist-finding websites)

        • Are there any costs I can reduce during this time?

          • Office space

          • Utilities

          • Software

          • Other?

        • Can I operate a sustainable mental health practice with my current set of clients?

        • Are there loans I might be eligible for? (see below)

    • What do I do with my current space?

      • There are currently no statutes for rent or lease forgiveness on spaces during this time. That being said, if the costs of maintaining space is rising you should consider:

        • a) Contacting the property owner: Anecdotally, we’ve seen property owners allow for up to 50% reductions in rent for 90 days during this time. 

        • b) Canceling your lease: Depending on the structure of your lease, if you intend to run a fully remote practice, it’s worth considering if you are struggling financially. Note, if you file for insurance, it will be important to change all your addresses which can add time.

    • Are there loans I can apply for?

    • Can I provide remote therapy (i.e. telehealth) from any location?

      • You will need to provide telehealth via a designated, secure space that ensures privacy and avoids minimal visual or auditory distractions.

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  • Ways to contribute your time

    • How can I help outside my practice?​

      • Volunteer for CrisisTextLine.org

        • CrisisTextLine is a non-profit text messaging service to allow individuals counseling support over text during times of crisis. They’ve seen a surge of demand and are looking for volunteer counselors to support.

        • https://www.crisistextline.org/volunteer

      • Volunteer for New York State:

Disclaimer: In creating this website, every effort has been made to offer the most current, correct, and clearly expressed information possible. Nevertheless, inadvertent errors in information may occur. Mental Health Solutions, LLC (Nirvana Health) makes no warranties or representations whatsoever regarding the quality, content, completeness, suitability, adequacy, sequence, accuracy, or timeliness of such information and data. The information on this website is provided "as is" without warranties of any kind. 

 
 
 
 
 

If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency or crisis and needs immediate help, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. 

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