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Telepractice: Make Sure You Know the Rules First

Posted by: Dr. Thomas Campbell, Executive Director, and Donise Pearson, Director of Clinical Operations – UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders

Telepractice has the potential to change the way we interact with a large number of our patients. But before speech-language pathologists or audiologists leap into this exciting new domain, they better know the ground rules. Clinicians practicing telehealth must follow a lengthy set of state guidelines designed to ensure patients get high-quality care, even if it’s not in a clinic.

One of the most important rules involves the first consultation with a new client. According to the Texas Administrative Code:

“The initial contact between the provider and client shall be at the same physical location to assess the client’s candidacy for telehealth, including behavioral, physical, and cognitive abilities to participate in services provided via telecommunications.”

A telepractice provider must be licensed in the state, and he or she has to comply with the state licensing board’s Code of Ethics and Scope of Practice requirements when providing telehealth services. The scope, nature and quality of services provided via telehealth must match those provided during in-person sessions by the clinician.

A provider also is required to be aware of the client’s level of comfort with the technology being used as part of the telehealth services and adjust their practice to maximize the level of comfort.

As far as liability and malpractice issues, a provider is held to the same standards of practice as if the telehealth services were provided in person. The statutes require telehealth providers to comply with all laws, rules and regulations governing the maintenance of client records, including client confidentiality requirements, regardless of the state where the records are maintained.

This is just a brief summary of a few important regulations. Clinicians should be engaged in any ongoing debates about new or amended rules because we’re the ones interacting with the patients every day. We know what works and what doesn’t.

We are interested in what you think. Let us know if you’ve had issues arise that aren’t addressed by existing regulations. Learn more about the regulations online.

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