Telemedicine at Heritage Counseling

How to keep your distance and see your counselor too!

March 20, 2020

By Scott Hendrickson, LCPC

It appears the most important task we all can do to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus is to stay home and limit our personal interactions as much as possible. Unfortunately, this flies in the face of optimal mental health practice, yet good mental health practice is learning to accept and deal with difficult situations as they arise. Here we all are—in this together AND together we will get through it!

At Heritage Counseling Center, we are making sure every client has the capability to continue with her/his counseling work. Telemedicine has now been authorized by virtually every major insurance carrier so we can make this happen. Every counselor at Heritage now has the tools to see you or your loved one via telemedicine. It’s simple and easy for everyone who has a computer device with a camera (i.e. smartphone, tablet or notebook computer with a webcam).

We use a program that is fully HIPAA compliant, secure and does not record or save any part of any video counseling session. When someone makes an appointment for a telemedicine session, our counseling staff will schedule the appointment with you as we always have that includes a confirmation email. In that email or the reminder email that comes about two days before your scheduled appointment, there will be a secure link which will take you or whomever the appointment is for, directly to your counselor’s virtual waiting room. The counselor will see you are there and bring you in when she/he is ready to begin the session. It’s that simple!

The billing is better. It appears every virtual session will be treated by the insurance companies just like a regular in-person session BUT the copay or coinsurance is waived by all the major insurance companies (i.e. Blue Cross Blue Shield, Optum, Aetna, Cigna) so there is likely no cost to you IF you have private insurance. It is always best practice for you to call your insurance directly to verify your benefits for Office Mental Health Benefits using Telemedicine. If you are a self-paying client, the easiest way to pay is with a credit card if that works for you.

There are some limitations to consider.

  • The internet is not as secure as brick and mortar. We do however utilize a platform created for Telemedicine with the built-in privacy security required by law.
  • You should use a secure connection NOT a public or free wifi.
  • You need a quiet, private place that is free from distractions (including devices) during your session. I think for some this might be the most challenging obstacle. This calls for innovation on your part: sit in a parking lot in your car (turned off if possible), a closet, the basement, a bedroom, or other. Perhaps a friend has a big empty room you can use. Babysitting is also a challenge for parents with younger children. Hopefully you will have a spouse or family friend that is willing to help here. Babysitting is a challenge even if you attend counseling at the office location however. Your children should not be in the room while you are in a counseling session to be sure.
  • A back-up plan is needed just in case the connection goes awry which is not atypical for internet connections. Provide your counselor with a phone number she/he can call you to reconnect if needed.
  • Children and teens need to have a signed consent form to participate in telemedicine counseling sessions. A form will be provided before your scheduled appointment.

Currently we are facing limitations everyday because of COVID 19. The other day, my wife and I decided to get to Costco when it opens so we could be in line to buy some toilet paper and Clorox wipes if they had them. That day, we decided to go to not our usual Costco in Naperville but to another location thinking they might have toilet paper. Of course, they didn’t have toilet paper as hoped (don’t worry about us, we still have a supply). Later that day I ran into a friend at Home Depot who also works at the Naperville Costco who proceeded to tell me of the big toilet paper shipment they got in that very morning—but was all gone by noon, Arrrgh! Oh well, we roll with it as usual!

“Remember that I am always with you to the end of time.” –Jesus Christ

While you are seeing temporarily empty shelves with many of your wants and needs not available, your counseling is still available either at the office or via video conference. We are and will be here to help you with your fears, your relationships, your depression that is being challenged by these circumstances and all the other counseling we do with you. You can call (815)577-8970 and press option 1 OR simply go to our website at heritagecounseling.com/appointment to request an appointment and a counselor will be standing by to help you or your loved one.

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