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Telehealth for behavioral health care

Protecting patients’ privacy

Telehealth presents certain privacy risks. It is important to discuss these with your patients along with the benefits.

Since it is common to talk about sensitive and confidential topics during behavioral health appointments, consider these patient discussion tips:

  • Why and when it is important to have privacy.
  • Suggestions for finding a private location for the telehealth session.
  • How to communicate using email, text, or (if available) your telehealth platform’s chat feature — especially if there might be issues with personal safety.

Before the appointment, ask the patient if they will have an interpreter or caregiver present. Make sure they feel comfortable talking about their mental or behavioral health in front of the other person. Determine if they need to fill out a release of information.

Tip: Understand the specific legal requirements and privacy concerns when providing care for patients with limited English proficiency and patients with disabilities.

Take extra precautions to protect patient privacy:

  • State your name and credentials to start.
  • Confirm the patient’s identity at the beginning of each appointment. Ask your patient to verify personal demographic information.
  • Ensure you and your patient are in a private area where you can speak openly. You can both “scan the room” with their device’s camera at the beginning of a video visit.
  • Use headphones to avoid confidential information being overheard by others.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi and use password-protected devices to log on to the telehealth visit.