Thank you for choosing the services that we provide at Atlanta Psychological Services (APS). This document is designed to inform you about what you can expect from your clinician(s) and staff at APS regarding confidentiality, emergencies, and several other details regarding the services you may receive with us as it pertains to technology use and TeleMental Health.
TeleMental Health is defined as follows:
“TeleMental Health means the mode of delivering services via technology-assisted media, such as but not limited to, a telephone, video, internet, a smartphone, tablet, PC desktop system or other electronic means using appropriate encryption technology for electronic health information. TeleMental Health facilitates client self-management and support for clients and includes synchronous interactions and asynchronous store and forward transfers.” (Georgia Code 135-11-.01)
TeleMental Health is a relatively new concept despite the fact that many therapists have been using technology-assisted media for years. Breaches of confidentiality over the past decade have made it evident that Personal Health Information (PHI) as it relates to technology needs an extra level of protection. Additionally, there are several other factors that need to be considered regarding the delivery of TeleMental Health services in order to provide you with the highest level of care. Therefore, our clinicians and staff have completed specialized training in TeleMental Health. We have also developed several policies and protective measures to assure your PHI remains confidential. These are discussed below.
The Different Forms of Technology-Assisted Media Explained
Telephone via Landline: It is important for you to know that even landline telephones may not be completely secure and confidential. There is a possibility that someone could overhear or even intercept your conversations with special technology. Individuals who have access to your telephone or your telephone bill may be able to determine who you have talked to, who initiated that call, and how long the conversation lasted. If you have a landline and you provided us with that phone number, we may contact you on this line from our own landline in our office or from a cell phone, typically only for purposes of setting up an appointment if needed. If this is not an acceptable way to contact you, please let your clinician know. Telephone conversations (other than just setting up appointments) are billed at your clinician's hourly rate.
Cell Phones: In addition to landlines, cell phones may not be completely secure or confidential. There is also a possibility that someone could overhear or intercept your conversations. Be aware that individuals who have access to your cell phone or your cell phone bill may be able to see who you have talked to, who initiated that call, how long the conversation was, and where each party was located when that call occurred. However, we realize that most people have and utilize a cell phone. We may also use a cell phone to contact you, typically only for purposes of setting up an appointment if needed. If this is a problem, please let your clinician know, and he/she will be glad to discuss other options. Telephone conversations (other than just setting up appointments) are billed at your clinician's hourly rate.
Text Messaging: Text messaging is not a secure means of communication and may compromise your confidentiality. Furthermore, sometimes people misinterpret the meaning of a text message and/or the emotion behind it. Therefore, we do not utilize texting in our therapy or evaluation services. If you happen to send your clinician a text message by accident, you need to know that she or he is required to keep a copy or summary of all texts as part of your clinical record that address anything related to therapy, but your clinician will not respond to a text message for your protection.
For appointment scheduling communications and reminders, text messaging may be used if approved by you in advance (not for clinical communications).
Email: We utilize a secure email platform that is hosted by Google Suites for Healthcare with Paubox encryption services. We have chosen this technology because it is encrypted to the federal standard, HIPAA compatible, and has signed a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA). The BAA means that the companies are willing to attest to HIPAA compliance and assume responsibility for keeping your PHI secure.
If we choose to utilize emailing as part of the services you receive from us (to provide/receive clinical information and to receive psychological evaluation reports), we encourage you to also utilize encrypted email for protection on your end (several options are available at www.TeleHealth.org). Otherwise, when you reply to one of your clinician's emails, everything you write in addition to what he/she has written to you (unless you remove it) will no longer be secure. Our encrypted email service only works to send information and does not govern what happens on your end.
We also strongly suggest that you only communicate through a device that you know is safe and technologically secure (e.g., has a firewall, anti-virus software installed, is password-protected, not accessing the internet through a public wireless network, etc.). If you are in a crisis, please do not communicate this to us via email because we may not see it in a timely matter. Instead, please see below under "Emergency Procedures."
Email is billed at your clinician's hourly rate for the time she or he spends reading and responding to them. Finally, you also need to know that we are required to keep a copy or summary of all email as part of your clinical record that address anything related to therapy.
Social Media - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc: It is our policy not to accept "friend" or "connection" requests from any current or former client on any of our clinician's personal social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. because it may compromise your confidentiality and blur the boundaries of your relationship.
However, Atlanta Psychological Services has professional Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google My Business, and Instagram pages/accounts. You are welcome to "follow" us on any of these professional pages where we post psychology information, counseling information, and therapeutic content. However, please do so only if you are comfortable with the general public being aware of the fact that your name is attached to Atlanta Psychological Services. Please refrain from making contact with us using social media messaging systems such as Facebook Messenger or Twitter. These methods have insufficient security, and we do not watch them closely. We would not want to miss an important message from you.
Video Conferencing (VC): Video Conferencing is an option for your clinician to conduct remote sessions with you over the internet where you may speak to one another as well as see one another on a screen. We utilize the Google Meet VC platform because it is encrypted according to the federal standard, is HIPAA compatible, and Google has signed a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA). The BAA means that Google is willing to attest to HIPAA compliance and assumes responsibility for keeping your VC interaction secure and confidential. If you and your clinician choose to utilize this technology, your clinician will give you detailed directions regarding how to log-in.
We also ask that you please sign on to the platform at least five to ten minutes prior to your session time to ensure you and your clinician get started promptly. Additionally, you are responsible for initiating the connection with your clinician at the time of your appointment.
We strongly suggest that you only communicate through a computer or device that you know is safe (e.g., has a firewall, anti-virus software installed, is password-protected, not accessing the internet through a public wireless network, etc.).
Recommendations to Websites or Applications (Apps): During the course of your treatment or evaluation, your clinician may recommend that you visit certain websites for pertinent information or self-help. She or he may also recommend certain apps that could be of assistance to you and enhance your treatment. Please be aware that websites and apps may have tracking devices that allow automated software or other entities to know that you've visited these sites or applications. They may even utilize your information to attempt to sell you other products. Additionally, anyone who has access to the device you used to visit these sites and/or apps, may be able to see that you have been to these sites by viewing the history on your device. Therefore, it is your responsibility to decide if you would like this information as an adjunct to your treatment, or if you prefer that your clinician does not make these recommendations. Please let your clinician know by checking (or not checking) the appropriate box at the end of this document.
Electronic Record Storage: Your communications with us will become part of a clinical record of treatment, and it is referred to as Protected Health Information (PHI). Your communications with us will become part of a clinical record of treatment, and it is referred to as Protected Health Information (PHI). Your PHI may be stored electronically with Google Suites for Healthcare and Therapy Notes, which are secure storage companies who have signed a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA). The BAA ensures that they will maintain the confidentiality of your PHI in a HIPAA compatible secure format using point-to-point with federally approved encryption.
Electronic Transfer of PHI for Billing Purposes: If your clinician is credentialed with and a provider for your insurance carrier, please know that we utilize a billing service (Therapy Notes), who has access to your PHI. Your PHI will be securely transferred electronically from Therapy Notes to your insurance carrier. This billing company has signed a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA). The BAA ensures that they will maintain the confidentiality of your PHI in a HIPAA compatible secure format using point-to-point with federally approved encryption. Additionally, if your insurance provider is billed, you will generally receive correspondence from your insurance company, our billing company, or both.
Electronic Transfer of PHI for Certain Credit Card Transactions: We also utilize Therapy Notes as the company that processes your credit card information. Additionally, please be aware that the transaction will also appear on your credit card bill or statement.