ATA Issues Guidelines for Videoconferencing Mental Health Services

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The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) announced the availability of formal practice guidelines for the use of videoconferencing for the delivery of mental health services.

In a release, the group noted: These guidelines are designed to form the standard of care for such services and will be the basis for the development and practice of uniform, effective, safe and sustainable telemental health practices. They will serve as both an operational reference and an educational tool to aid in providing appropriate care for patients.

The use of telemental health has been in existence for over 40 years. It has been used successfully as a tool for treatment in diverse areas such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), providing counseling services in rural areas and offering health medication management for institutionalized patients. A number of payers and health services are starting to offer telemental health service benefits and may soon adopt these guidelines as their basis for coverage.

The guidelines focus on the use of two-way, interactive videoconferencing in the delivery of telemental health services, which now has an abundance of significant research documenting its effectiveness as well as a comparison of outcomes between various approaches used in its delivery. Other modalities such as the use of telephones and email are not addressed in this document.

An evidence-based compendium of empirical research was first established and used as the basis for the guidelines. Both the evidence-based document and practice guidelines were developed by panels composed of experts from the field, representatives from relevant medical societies and other strategic stakeholders. The guidelines and standards generated by ATA have undergone a thorough consensus, a period of public comment and rigorous review, with final approval by the ATA Board of Directors.

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