Telehealth consent form

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A telehealth consent form is an intake document that outlines to clients how electronic communication or video conferencing will be utilized as a provision of care for therapy treatment. A telehealth consent form is required if you’re expanding your services to offer teletherapy and must be signed by the client.

Before embarking on a telehealth practice though, it’s advisable to understand telehealth consent form requirements along with your responsibilities as a clinician to legally and ethically protect you and your clients and help you to serve clients better.  In this article, we’ll delve into what should be included in telehealth consent forms, how location may affect your forms and telehealth consent forms procedures.

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What to include in a telehealth consent form

When it comes to clients and telehealth consent forms, your forms should provide the necessary information for a client to make an informed decision about care. In your telehealth consent form, you may want to specifically address connectivity, the use of technology, protection of PHI and confidentiality and Internet security. 
With this in mind, some therapists make one big informed consent form for in-office and telehealth to sign. Others have separate consents for in-person clients and telehealth clients. How you structure your consent is up to you, your board requirements and the best fit for your clients. 

Accounting for location in your telehealth consent form

One of the great advantages of offering telehealth services is that you can expand beyond your immediate local service area. Which is great! But it raises a few questions. 

For example, did you know that in some states you have to be licensed to practice in BOTH the state you live in AND the state the client is in? It may also necessitate different requirements for your telehealth consent form. Check in with your state’s and your client’s state office of professions website or office to learn more.

Working with international clients can be a little precarious as well when it comes to telehealth consent forms and could raise the following questions:

  • Does the licensure requirement still apply if your new client lives in another country like Canada or Mexico?
  • What are the mental health laws in those countries regarding licensure and informed consent? 


Knowing your mental health law and responsibilities regarding informed consent is a win. 



Procedures for teletherapy and telehealth consent forms

Although approaches and even laws regarding specific informed consent may differ from state to state or even country to country, it is advisable to follow these standard guidelines when implementing teletherapy and telehealth consent forms in your practice:

  • Have medical and intake forms reviewed by your legal team to ensure they meet any requirements for telehealth.
  • Obtain informed consent from your client before the first appointment.
  • Ensure that informed consent and other compliance documents have been received and documented during the check-in process, including verbal confirmation of consent.
  • Clearly explain to a client what they can anticipate during the telehealth visit and inform them of their rights.
  • Have the client test their technology before they start.
  • Engage in a discussion with the patient about their responsibilities during online counseling or other telebehavioral health sessions. This may involve specific instructions such as wearing headphones and finding a private location to ensure confidentiality on their end.
  • Reassure children and adolescents they can confide in you, and any confidential information they share will be kept private from their parents or guardians. Verify whether other household members are honoring the patient's privacy requirements.
  • If anyone is observing the session, inform the client and obtain their consent at the beginning.


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Sending and receiving telehealth consent forms

When a client comes into an office to sign a standard form, it’s a pretty straightforward affair. They likely complete the form with a pen and hand it to you (or another person) on a clipboard. Their information is then entered in a contact list or client record. (With your best attempts at reading their illegible handwriting.)

A telehealth consent form works a little differently. Even if you have adapted your telehealth consent form, you still need to send and receive it.

Some providers may turn to email, but most email services are not HIPAA compliant. Also, you’ll need to commit time to scanning and returning forms, and copying and filing those forms to a chart or EHR.

Document signing services are an option but some therapists find them a bit pricey for small practices. There’s still the time suck of navigating between platforms – telemental health, EHR, document signing, claims – that may not play well together.

Another option for sending and receiving a telehealth consent form is using a HIPAA-compliant, all-in-one teletherapy, EHR and practice management tool that helps you manage your practice forms efficiently. Less time chasing paperwork means more time helping your clients. That’s a win for everyone.

At the end of the day, you have to make sure that any consents you’re required to have are informative, accessible, and securely signed by your client. You may never have to produce them but you can be assured knowing your client is fully informed and that you are maintaining the highest standards for care in your practice.

Resources on teletherapy consent forms

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Disclaimer: This information does not serve as legal or tax advice. It is only for informational purposes and should serve as a guide to assist you as you work through the decision-making process. You should consult with an attorney and tax advisor for legal and tax advice.

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