Monday, September 21, 2020

Tips on Reopening Psychiatric Practices During Pandemic

As psychiatrists begin to reopen their offices during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many questions about how to do so safely. In the latest issue of Psychiatric News, risk management consultant Anne Huben-Kearney, R.N., B.S.N., M.P.A., offers some advice

“Take into consideration your health and that of your patients and whether to continue with telepsychiatry, reopen your practice to see patients in person, or have a hybrid practice,” Huben-Kearney wrote. “Safety for your patients and for yourself is paramount, now more than ever.”

For psychiatrists who are preparing to resume seeing patients in person, Huben-Kearney suggested the following:

  • Continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing, masks, and hand hygiene as well as state and local restrictions. 
  • Ensure adequate masks and hand sanitizer for office staff and patients. Demonstrate use of both, including using the hand sanitizer when your patient enters the session room. 
  • Reorganize your office to allow for physical distancing. Try to avoid more than one patient in the office at a time, and allow enough time between patients to wipe down surfaces.
  • Outdoor sessions may be an option with written patient consent, but you need to be able to ensure auditory and visual confidentiality. 

Huben-Kearney also offered some guidance for psychiatrists who want to continue telepsychiatry sessions with patients, including those who live out of state:

  • Keep track of when and to what degree the state governors rescind executive orders, especially regarding licensure across state lines. 
  • Monitor when the Drug Enforcement Administration resumes compliance with the Ryan Haight Act, which requires health care professionals to conduct an initial, in-person examination of a patient before electronically prescribing a controlled substance.
  • Initiate an application for permanent licensure in the states where your patients are located. Psychiatrists should be sure to check the status of their state’s COVID-19 guidelines (APA has compiled state-issued guidance here). They should also check the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC), which allows states to work together to streamline the multi-state licensing process.
  • Ensure that you have a HIPAA-compliant platform with a Business Associate Agreement to ensure your protection in case of a data breach. 

Finally, continue “to ensure patient screening, both for in-person and telepsychiatry sessions,” Huben-Kearney concluded. “Ensure compliance with the standard of care, which is the same whether care is provided in person or via telemedicine.”

To read more on this topic, see the Psychiatric News article “Reopening Your Practice During Pandemic.” 

(Image: iStock/miodrag ignjatovic)


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