Wondering if you need a form to obtain informed consent for teletherapy? A consent form helps to prevent misunderstandings between therapists and their patients, protecting the interests of both patients and providers. Informed consent forms are also required if you want to get licensed in certain states. In this guide, we explain what informed consent for teletherapy is, share crucial aspects of creating a consent form, and offer templates you can use in your practice.
What is informed consent for teletherapy?
Informed consent for teletherapy is a verbal or written agreement between you and your patient that describes your patient’s right to receive teletherapy services, guarantees the patient’s privacy and security, and explains the scope of your services. This consent protects your and your patients’ best interests by confirming that your patients understand their rights and obligations.
There are two types of consent you might need in your work:general consent for services and informed consent for telehealth services. The significant differences between them define when it is appropriate to ask for each type of consent. Check the table below to understand when each type of consent is called for.
In this article, we focus on informed consent for telehealth services, specifically teletherapy, which you should obtain from both new and existing patients.
According to US federal laws that cover the provision of communication technology-based services, you need to obtain at least verbal patient consent to provide telehealth services and should document this consent in the patient’s medical record. However, patient consent requirements vary by state. For example, written consent is necessary to provide teletherapy services in Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, and many other states.
Check out this interactive map to learn the current requirements for getting informed consent for teletherapy in your state.
Now that you know the current legal requirements, let’s learn how obtaining informed consent for teletherapy benefits you.
Why do you need to obtain informed consent for teletherapy?
While requirements on obtaining informed consent for teletherapy services differ from state to state, in all states you need to obtain consent, either verbally or in writing. We recommend you obtain written consent, as it will enable you to:
- use the consent form as a checklist to ensure you’ve covered all information required by informed consent rules listed by the Federation of State Medical Boards
- ensure there is no misunderstanding between you and your patient
- get solid proof that you’ve obtained your patient’s consent
Your patients will also benefit from providing consent for your services. After all, it will help them be on the same page with you regarding terminology and their rights and will help them know your obligations towards them.
When should you obtain informed consent?
As a therapist, you are required to obtain informed consent for teletherapy before the first session, giving your patient enough time to review and complete the required forms. After that, during check-in, you will have to ensure that the patient has given you their consent.
Also, make sure you review informed consent forms at least once a year. Every time you make even the slightest change to your consent form, you have to obtain your patients’ consent once again.
How can you obtain informed consent for teletherapy services?
You have lots of options when it comes to obtaining informed consent for telehealth services. It can be done in person, over the phone, or even via email or text message. You just need to make sure that the patient is aware of all the risks and benefits of the services they are consenting to and that the method you use to obtain consent is secure and HIPAA-compliant.
First of all, you should ensure that obtaining verbal consent is enough in your state. Note that you must document what you have discussed with your patient in medical records, as it is an essential part of the medical record-keeping process. Also, make sure to review the script you use to obtain verbal consent every time you change your policy.
Physical form sent by mail
This way of obtaining consent seems outdated, yet it still works if you provide hybrid services and can send the consent form to a patient’s physical address. If you provide mainly teletherapy services, there are more effective methods of obtaining patient consent. However, this method works if your patient cannot fill out an online form. Another non-obvious benefit of such an approach is that your patient can keep a copy of the signed form.
This is the easiest way of obtaining patient consent. You can use different online communication methods to send an informed consent form to your patient and let them fill it in and sign it. For sending this consent form, you can use:
- a secure HIPAA-compliant email platform
- a patient portal
- electronic documents with an e-signature option
- built-in custom forms in secure telehealth platforms
Note that the channel you choose should be HIPAA-compliant, as the consent form will include personally identifiable patient information.
Try ExpertBox free for 14 days to access HIPAA-compliant document sharing with an e-signature option, work with the intake form builder, and get many more features to boost your communication with patients.
Before you start sending an online telehealth consent form to your patients, you will need to carefully prepare it, ensuring that it covers all necessary matters. Let’s move on to the principles of building a telehealth consent form for mental health.
What should you include in a teletherapy informed consent template?
Any informed consent form for teletherapy should include information about the therapy process and how it works, what is expected from the patient regarding participation, the provider’s qualifications, possible risks or benefits associated with teletherapy, and the duration of the sessions. Preferences of both the provider and the patient should also be discussed in the informed consent, such as communication preferences, confidentiality, payment methods, and other relevant details.
Additionally, the informed consent template should outline any limitations associated with teletherapy, such as the inability to provide certain in-person services and the lack of physical office space. This ensures that all expectations are clearly outlined from the beginning of the therapy process.
Check the list below to understand the key points you need to include in your template:
- General information on telehealth services. Explain what telehealth is, who the service provider is, and which technology will be used to provide telehealth services. Add a list of the benefits, constraints, and risks of telehealth services.
- Voluntary consent. Highlight the voluntary nature of services, ensuring your patient knows they can stop receiving services at any moment and revoke their consent.
- Location. Specify the patient’s and service provider’s location during provision of telehealth services.
- Services list. Add a description of the services that will be provided using telehealth and how in-person cases will be managed if such a need arises.
- Treatment duration. State the period during which services will be provided.
- Expected outcomes. Note the outcomes that your patient can expect as a result of your telehealth services.
- Patient’s responsibilities. Explain your patient’s responsibilities during telehealth sessions.
- Medical health records access. Add information about your patient’s right to access their medical records from telehealth visits.
- Force majeure circumstances. Add provisions for unforeseen circumstances, explaining how your patient can obtain service in case a major telehealth channel fails.
- Additional information. Add information on other procedures and factors indirectly connected with telehealth visits (pricing, billing, scheduling, etc.).
Information specific to teletherapy services can also be included in the telehealth consent template as a separate block. Your patient has the right to be informed of the therapy approach you will use in their treatment.
You can add this information either in FAQ format or as a form.
|Provision of services|
|Privacy and security concerns|
An example of teletherapy informed consent template
Now that you know what should be included in a teletherapy informed consent template, let’s check out an example that you can use for inspiration or apply to your practice right away with minimum changes.
This form includes both basic information on telehealth services as well as paragraphs specific to teletherapy services.
Download the teletherapy informed consent template and use it in your practice
We highly recommend you look through different templates and forms and extend them by adding information specific to your therapy practice and directly addressing questions and concerns your patients might have.
Risks of not having an informed teletherapy consent form
Failing to meet the requirements of the state board of medical licensure for your state can lead to medical license suspension, so be careful to check the legislation and requirements for informed telehealth consent in your state. We advise you to consult with a lawyer after you create a draft of your template based on the forms we have provided as examples.
Also, without an informed teletherapy consent form, patients may not fully understand the terms and conditions of their telehealth visit. They may not be aware of the potential risks of participating in a telehealth session. They also may not fully understand their legal obligations and the limits of your responsibilities. In general, we can distinguish three main dangers that you expose yourself to when you don’t implement an informed consent form:
- Patients may claim they were unaware of the methods or software used to provide services.
- Patients may misinterpret the extent of the services, expected outcomes, or service duration.
- Without written or verbal informed consent, patients may be able to claim that they shouldn’t be charged for certain services.
Doctors and telehealth companies’ payments are at risk if there isn’t written acknowledgment or agreement of the patient’s ascent to certain things, one of which is financial responsibility or being charged for things, especially if their health plan doesn’t pay for certain services.
As you can see, having a teletherapy consent form is essential.
When you provide online mental health services, an informed teletherapy consent form is essential. It ensures that both you and your patient agree on the extent of services. This helps to reduce back-and-forth communication and eliminates potential billing issues. Plus, it helps each party secure its rights and obligations towards the other. Make sure you use an informed consent form in your practice and subscribe to our newsletter for more tips and guides on teletherapy.
Informed consent is important in counseling because it allows patients to make informed decisions about their treatment and to understand their rights and obligations. If you fail to obtain informed telehealth consent, this might lead to:
- The possibility of the patient saying they were unaware of the methods or software used to provide services
- The risk of misinterpretation of the extent of services, expected outcomes, or service duration
- The ability of patients to claim that they shouldn’t be charged for certain services
- License suspension if you don’t meet the requirements of your state board of medical licensure
You need to include the following in your teletherapy informed consent template:
- General information on telehealth services
- The voluntary nature of consent
- Therapy location
- Services list
- Treatment duration
- Expected outcomes
- Patient’s responsibilities
- Access to medical health records
- Force majeure cases
- Additional information
Check this interactive map to learn the current requirements for getting informed consent for teletherapy in your state.
You can download an informed teletherapy consent form template from here. This form includes both basic information on telehealth services as well as paragraphs specific to teletherapy services.