Coronavirus Update, May 1: Telepsychology and Phone Support

This page will be frequently revised as more information becomes available. 

To all of my clients:

Health authorities worldwide are still studying how it is transmitted and how to contain the spread. To ensure safety and provide needed support during the coronavirus pandemic, I am offering only telepsychology and phone sessions. Third party payers have significantly loosened telepsychology restrictions and say they will pay for these sessions. This is an evolving situation. Because so much is still unknown about the virus, and my wife and I have several risk factors, I expect to stay with telepsychology only until there is effective and available treatment or a vaccine.

I am offering telepsychology through a secure service, doxy.me. If unable to connect through that platform, regulations have been loosened to allow video sessions via your smartphone, computer or tablet and such platforms as Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and WhatsApp. This requires using a device with a camera and microphone and a fast enough internet connection. I these video sessions, we are very much able to see and hear each other. If you have difficulty making the connection, I will do my best to guide you through setting up the video call capability and will initiate the session by sending an email or phone link before we start. Regulations are being temporarily loosened to allow me to offer phone teletherapy sessions. The latest update was by Medicare, and often commercial insurers come on board with Medicare’s guidelines.

Regular visits for clients on Medicare or commercial plans can be offered by audio phone calls as well as  video, effective May 1 and retroactive to March 1. Providers can use video resources that are not outward-facing, such as FaceTime, Skype, Google Meetings and others. Medicare is also allowing brief phone check-ins by clients, initiated by them. As we figure out the best means to connect remotely, I can explain benefits and limitations of the platform we’re using. Washington State is also requesting that Medicaid provide more flexibility in provider settings, funding and eligibility.

Supporting established clients in OR via teletherapy

As of April 13, 2020, OR has granted my request to provide continuity of care to established clients residing in OR via teletherapy as an Emergency Visiting Psychologist. The permit expires September 26, 2020.

These are stressful times that also have the potential to unite us in helping each other. If you are an established client and are feeling overwhelmed, please try to contact me at (415) 271-2350. I want to help, but this is not a 24 hour/7 day crisis line. If you can’t reach me in a timely manner, contact the Clark County Crisis Hotline at 800.626.8137. For life-threatening emergencies or situations requiring an immediate on-scene response, please dial 911. 

For established clients only, please feel free to call with any questions at (415) 271-2350. If I don’t get back to you by late in the day, please call back. You can also text me at this number, or email me at drgarys@drgaryseeman.com for routine logistical communications that don’t reveal your protected health information. Be aware that personal information sent this way may not be secure. I also offer encrypted email at drgary@hushmail.com, which meets HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) security requirements.

Here is the link to the CDC’s information website. It answers most of your questions. I am available to support you through the many challenges the pandemic will put us through. Perhaps this will be the wake-up call that brings us together to address the most urgent situations facing our country and our world.