Creating an emergency plan for telebehavioral health
When providing telebehavioral health care, you are seeing patients outside of the safety and control of your office. Increased isolation, stress, and anxiety due to COVID-19 make it more important than ever to prepare for potential crisis situations.
Planning for an emergency situation during a telebehavioral health appointment helps set expectations with your patients. It ensures you can act quickly if problems arise. Ask your patients questions and get as much emergency contact information as possible before the first appointment.
- What is your current location? Confirm the patient’s exact location at the beginning of each appointment and get their full address.
- What are the emergency numbers for that location? 911 only works if you are in the same location as the person needing help, and calls cannot usually be forwarded to a different location. Search online and note numbers for local police, fire department, mobile crisis unit, crisis hotline, and the nearest urgent care or emergency room.
- What is the emergency contact information for your doctor or other health care professional(s)?
Who is your local emergency contact or support person? A family member, friend, neighbor — someone nearby who can offer help in the event of a crisis.
- Get patient authorization to release information to their emergency contact if needed.
- What happens if the call is disconnected during an emergency? Who will call whom and at what number? Plan for alternate ways to reconnect to your patient via phone or an alternate video platform.
- What situations will lead to putting the emergency plan into action?
- What will happen in the event of an emergency? For example, when to call an emergency contact to help check on the patient, transport the patient, or call 911 from the patient’s location.
- What happens if you miss an appointment, and it is possible you may be in a crisis?
- What circumstances will require a referral to in-person treatment or care?
More details about emergency planning:
- Patient Safety and Emergency Management — from the American Psychiatric Association