The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way we live and interact. You may have started offering services virtually and are continuing to offer services virtually. The following do’s and don’ts of virtual service are a good reminder on how to determine when it is appropriate to use virtual services and some considerations for delivering services virtually. If you have specific questions, please contact the College via email. You can also view our virtual service FAQs.
- Provide care/service that is patient/client-centred at all times (e.g. use of language and cultural interpreters, etc.).
- Use your professional judgement to determine whether:
- It is appropriate to offer services virtually based on each patient’s/client’s needs and whether the nature of the service requires an in-person visit. Is it appropriate for the initial assessment? Are virtual services accessible for the patient/client? Have you ensured the safety of the patient/client during the virtual session and after?
- You have the ability to deliver services virtually that will be effective for the patient/client and that they have been made aware of what outcomes can realistically be expected. Ensure that the patient/client understands how service delivery is different, and that they have the opportunity to stop the service at any point.
- There are any physical, cognitive or sensory deficits that may make virtual services unsafe or ineffective for a particular patient/client.
- You are able to protect your patient’s/client’s privacy and health information during the virtual session.
- You have a plan in place to deal with potential events such as a medical emergency, failure of technology or environmental hazards. Conduct a risk assessment for each patient/client. Do virtual services expose the patient/client to greater risks than in-person services?
- Ensure positive identification of the patient/client and/or substitute decision-maker.
- Obtain informed consent for virtual services. Ensure the consent conversation includes all elements (discuss the benefits, risks, alternatives and possible outcomes) and additional considerations with offering services virtually such as the potential benefits/difficulties/risks (e.g. risks to privacy, security and confidentiality of health information and safeguards in place). View the Practice Standard- Consent and the Practice Guideline- Consent.
- Maintain records to the same standard as in-person services, and ensure records indicate where services were provided virtually. Learn more about record keeping.
- Ensure technology suitability- consider the pros/cons of each platform or app and their suitability to the patient/client and your needs.
- Meet privacy and confidentiality requirements. Take action to prevent privacy and cyber risks:
- Review guidelines and strategies for the implementation and use of virtual care.
- Minimize the exchange of personal health information and/or sensitive information through un-encrypted channels.
- Remain vigilant in identifying spam/phishing emails and malicious websites.
- Keep up to date with security patches and upgrades.
- Bill appropriately- ensure invoices state that services were provided virtually. Advise patients/clients to confirm with their insurance provider beforehand whether virtual sessions are covered.
- Comply with applicable regulations or rules when providing services out of province (e.g. privacy and confidentiality legislation) and check whether professional liability insurance covers out of province services.
- Continue to provide virtual services if the assessment/treatment is not being conducted safely or effectively. Check in with the patient/client periodically to determine the value of continuing virtually.
- Omit relevant information from invoices, such as the fact that the services were provided virtually. This constitutes fraud.
- Use platforms that store/record encounters in a cloud or “offsite” without employer approval. Consult the website of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario to access resources that promote compliance with privacy laws.