Millions of Americans are impacted by infertility, birth trauma, and reproductive loss. Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with infertility but are less likely to seek treatment, according to Dr. Kristy Christopher-Holloway, director of New Vision Counseling Center, in Douglasville, Georgia, and an expert on the mental health impacts of infertility. In an interview with Raymond Barrett, CEO of the Telehealth Certification Institute, Dr. Christopher-Holloway discussed how telehealth is helping expand her practice in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Christopher-Holloway says about 20% of the U.S. population is impacted by an infertility diagnosis every year. Black women are about 1.5 times more likely to experience the diagnosis of infertility, but they typically will seek help or treatment for the diagnosis at lesser rates.

Her current research includes perinatal mental health and infertility. “We know that this is an under-researched population area, and when there is no research we cannot do an effective treatment.”

Do no harm. Your ethical code as a clinician requires that above all, you promote the welfare of your client and avoid harm. 

Now that COVID-19 is raging across America, this mandate takes on a new question: how do clinicians avoid physically harming clients amid a global pandemic?

According to the CDC, in-person talk therapy in an office seems an ideal way to spread the coronavirus if either the clinician or client is infected:

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has the perennial responsibility of setting social work standards and ethics. In recent years, technological options for client engagement have flourished, resulting in an explosive demand for new mandates, guidelines, and tech boundaries in the social work field. 

The NASW is the largest professional organization dedicated to ethical social work practice. Represented by 130,000 members from 50 US states, they have established safety principles for social workers and their clients. The NASW clinical social work standards are widely cited by students, professionals, and educators to inform their practice behaviors. Though they are the leading member organization, the NASW partners with other social work groups. An example of their partnership is with The Association of Social Work Boards’ (ASWB). The NASW used the ASWB’s 2015 Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice as a partial framework for the 2017 Technology in Social Work Practice Guidelines. The 2017 document represents the most current provisions for the ethical use of technology. In addition to the NASW and ASWB, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA) have contributed to the current technology recommendations for the social work profession. The four collaborative organizations arrived at the 2017 standards after forming the Task Force for Technology Standards in Social Work Practice.

Jay Ostrowski describes how his telemental health platform, Adaptive Telehealth, offers modern features for well-reasoned clinicians. With expertise in HIPAA compliance, Jay created his platform to anchor therapists as they walk an unstable mental health tightrope. Choosing Adaptive as your telehealth home base accommodates your clients, while attuning to your practice goals.

In a notoriously digital age, the healthcare industry has been the newest convert to online, virtual, and distance-based telehealth technology. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), the Alliance for Connected Care, and the American Telemedicine Association—with enthusiastic support from 22 experts on various points of the healthcare spectrum—have formed a synergistic Taskforce on Telehealth policy (TTP). The group recently launched a forward-thinking campaign that targets three fundamental categories:

  1. The cost of telehealth service expansion (programmatic concerns).
  2. Protections and safeguards for patients in remote environments (patient concerns).
  3. Data flow, care integration, and quality control (system-level concerns).

Finding a training for telephone counseling can be an exhausting, time-intensive process for clinicians. Knowing what to look for, and why training is essential to begin with, are key pieces of information for over the phone counseling. First, let’s start with what topics are essential for phone counseling—

  • Legal considerations for telephonic counseling 
  • Ethical implications when using a verbal-only clinical modality 
  • How to keep your phone safe and HIPAA compliant? 
  • What to know about crisis planning for phone counseling

Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers in New York State (NASW-NYS), Dr. Samantha Fletcher, has a PhD in social work and is a passionate advocate for ethical social work practice. Samantha argues that racial disparities are permeating almost every aspect of our society. Her even-handed response calls for education, personal responsibility, and having enough humility to be wrong.

The social work profession was built on generalist practice. This approach gives social workers a perspective that is unique to the field: an eye for injustice that impacts social systems at the micro (person-to-person), mezzo (organization, group, and community), or macro (society at large) levels. Social workers have a distinct interpretation of social issues because of their role flexibility; and in Samantha’s view, justice is best achieved when all of these factors are considered.

The use of telehealth services rapidly expanded in the U.S. after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. The changes in the way that health care was delivered were needed to help stop the spread of the disease.

But will the momentum continue after the pandemic subsides? There are signs that it might.

You may have switched your practice to telehealth-only sessions when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and – like many in America – you are still working from home. You also may be paying rent for an office you’re no longer using. 

Why not just give up the office and work from home for the foreseeable future? Can you continue your practice as a telehealth-only home-based business? Is it just a matter of filling out a few change-of-address forms and ending your lease? 

Here are some things to keep in mind before switching to a telehealth-only home office:

Alison Connelly-Flores is a certified physician assistant and chief medical information officer at Urban Health Plan Inc. in New York City. The onset of COVID-19 triggered a last-minute IT whirlwind, leaving Alison scrambling to devise, develop, and demonstrate the effectiveness of telemedicine services for Urban Health Plan. Tasked with merging clinical and technological initiatives, Alison has worked around the clock to attain the federally qualified health center status for Urban Health Plan and remain financially competitive.