Mental Health Care Practices and How They are Affected by COVID-19

August 5th, 2020
Mental Health Care Practices and How They are Affected by COVID-19

So many people have been affected by COVID-19, from businesses to individuals. As a mental healthcare practice, you will feel the effects on multiple levels. You have your patients and their mental health to worry about during this stressful time. In addition, you have to worry about running your office during a global pandemic. Bowne Barry & Barry, a lawyer in East Brunswick NJ, has years of experience working with mental healthcare practices. During this time, we can help you make sure you are taking the necessary steps for conducting telehealth appointments. Therefore, you are reopening so that you are minimizing risks to the best of your ability. Read on to learn about different ways your practice may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Telehealth: The New Normal

Shutting down is not an option for mental healthcare practices. Your patients need you whether there is a global pandemic or not. Many practices closed down their physical offices but maintained seeing their patients virtually via telehealth appointments. Even with many practices starting to gradually reopen, some patients will still opt for telehealth due to continued COVID-19 cases and concerns. It is important to continue making sure that these telehealth appointments comply with HIPAA. As a lawyer, we understand that HIPAA regulations can be complex. We are here to help you make sure you are following HIPAA laws in regard to practicing virtually.

PPE for Patients and Practitioners

As you begin to open back up, it is crucial to think about your personal protective equipment (PPE) strategy. In the state of New Jersey, people must wear masks while they are indoors. This means that both the providers and the patients must wear masks while inside your office. As you reopen, make sure you have a supply of masks for your entire staff. Provide hand sanitizer throughout the office. Also, have masks to offer to patients. That way if a patient doesn’t have one when they come in for their appointment, they can still be safe. 

Change in Office Policies

In addition to PPE, you will want to implement changes to office policies and procedures. These must reflect COVID-19 safety precautions. For example, all appointments should consist of the patient and provider being at least 6 feet apart, both wearing masks. In addition, some medical offices are requiring patients to wait for their appointment in their car to reduce waiting room exposure. Hand sanitizers and masks should be readily available for patients at the office. You will also need to update your cleaning procedures. Previously, many practices had a cleaning crew come through at the end of the day. This is no longer enough. High touch surfaces like doorknobs, desks, and chairs should be cleaned after each use.

This may seem like a lot to think about, but don’t stress. Bowne Barry & Barry is here to help your practice through this “new normal” of day-to-day operations. The first step is updating your office policies and procedures. This needs to be an official, written document. The document will provide patients with information about new office procedures like wearing a mask and waiting in their car. In order to cover all your bases, send the new policy document out and also discuss with your patient during their first appointment back at the office.

In addition, the patients need to sign a document acknowledging that they read and were made aware of the new policies and procedures. Another document that all patients will need to sign is an informed consent form. This basically acknowledges the risks of coming in contact with COVID-19 and how you as an office are minimizing risks. At Bowne Barry & Barry we are very familiar with putting together medical consent type documents for patients and can help you with both of these.   

Check with Your Insurance

When it comes to insurance, things have changed due to the pandemic. Congress has granted protection from liability when it comes to certain COVID-19 related issues but there could be certain pandemic issues that do not fall under this protection. The best way to make sure you are covering all your bases is to contact both your medical malpractice and general liability insurance companies to see if you are adequately covered in relation to practicing during the pandemic.

Staff Trainings

Last but not least, you will want to have multiple training sessions with the mental healthcare providers in your office to make sure they are providing the highest quality of treatment to patients. You may have wonderful psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, therapists, etc., with years of experience treating patients. However, COVID-19 is a whole new ball game. Be sure that the providers in your practice have access to necessary resources and professional development so they can learn how to best meet the needs of their patients during this stressful time.

Running a mental healthcare practice amidst a global pandemic can be stressful. From making sure you have enough PPE, to updating office policies and procedures, there is a lot that goes into making your office a safe place for employees and patients. At Bowne Barry & Barry, a lawyer in East Brunswick NJ, we are here to help you navigate the legal aspects of running your practice during the COVID-19 era.

Lawyer in East Brunswick NJ

As many of your patients may continue wanting telehealth services, we will help to make sure you remain HIPAA compliant while practicing virtually. We can also help create informed consent and updated office policy and procedure forms so that patients are aware of risks and what you are doing to help protect them. In addition, we can help discuss any insurance issues with your provider to make sure you are covered from malpractice and liability lawsuits in relation to COVID-19. For more information about practicing during COVID-19 and the services we provide, contact us today.