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American Telemedicine Association (ATA) Announces Guidelines for Video-Based Online Mental Health Services

Mental Health Services

The new American Telemedicine Association guidelines for practicing via the Internet have now been released. You’ll find them at the ATA website, called, Practice Guidelines for Video-Based Online Mental Health Services.

They cover the provision of mental health services when using real-time videoconferencing services transmitted via the Internet, including a personal computer with a webcam or a mobile communications device (e.g., “smart phone,” laptop, or tablet) with two-way camera capability. A more detailed description offered at the ATA website states:
The scope of these guidelines covers the provision of mental health services provided by a licensed healthcare professional when using real-time videoconferencing services transmitted via the Internet.  Other certified professionals may take guidance from these guidelines, but the current version targets the practice of behavioral health by licensed healthcare professionals. The guidelines pertain to telemental health conducted between two parties, and do not address concerns related to multipoint videoconferencing.  These guidelines include telemental health services when the initiating, receiving, or both sites are using a personal computer with a webcam or a mobile communications device (e.g., “smart phone”, laptop, or tablet) with two-way camera capability.  These guidelines do not address communications between professionals and clients or patients via texting, e-mail, chatting, social network sites, online “coaching” or other non-mental health services.  
This document contains requirements, recommendations, or actions that are identified by text containing the keywords “shall,” “should,” or “may.”  “Shall” indicates a required action whenever feasible and practical under local conditions.  These indications are found in bold throughout the document.  “Should” indicates an optimal recommended action that is particularly suitable, without mentioning or excluding others. “May” indicates additional points that may be considered to further optimize the telemental healthcare process.
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