- Associated Press - Friday, April 15, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York authorities have proposed regulations for state-licensed psychiatry providers to treat clients via live video conference.

Telepsychiatry can help deliver mental health care when patients can’t be seen directly because of distance, timing or lack of clinicians nearby, the Office of Mental Health said Friday.

According to the proposed regulations, email, faxes and phone calls aren’t equivalent and wouldn’t constitute reimbursable services under Medicaid.

Outpatient clinics operated or licensed by OMH can use telepsychiatry now. The agency also uses it in prisons.

The proposed regulations will be reissued in late April then subject to 45 days of public comment before the agency considers making them final.

“This is a regulatory action to reflect the desire of the public and providers to utilize this emerging technology to deliver mental health services to underserved and hard-to-reach areas,” the agency said. Benefits can include improved access and more timely care, as well as better continuity, compliance and coordination, it said.

The regulations apply to licensed mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, psychologists, psychoanalysts, therapists, counselors, physicians, nurses, social workers and physician assistants.

Protocols would be required to maintain patient confidentiality and for psychiatric emergencies that may override those privacy rights.

Procedures for prescribing medications would have to be identified and follow existing regulations. It couldn’t be used for ordering psychiatric medications, restraints or seclusion over patient objections.

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