With a state of emergency just declared in the province of Ontario, and with measures encouraging social distance across Canada, RPs’ expertise is required more than ever. As face to face interaction is now limited, many may start to consider meeting with clients via online platforms.

Before you choose an electronic platform, please keep the following in mind:

1. Consider your clients’ privacy

If using a platform based in the USA, ensure your platform is HIPAA compliant.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets the standard for sensitive patient data protection. Companies that deal with protected health information (PHI) must have physical, network, and process security measures in place and follow them to ensure HIPAA Compliance.

If the platform is based in Canada, ensure it is PIPEDA and Personal Health Information and Protection Act (PHIPA) compliant.

PHIPA came into effect on November 1, 2004 and sets out the rules that health information custodians must follow when collecting, using and disclosing personal health information. PHIPA applies to health information custodians that collect, use and disclose personal health information, whether or not in the course of commercial activities.

2. Get familiar with confidentiality requirements

See CRPO’s standard on Electronic Practice

Information from CRPO regarding confidentiality

3. Is the platform encrypted?

Platforms should be encrypted to ensure client confidentiality. Any information shared between therapist and patient should be encoded. Popular platforms like Skype or ordinary email are not designed for confidentiality and for the most part are based in the United States. As such, they have to comply with the Patriot Act when it comes to sharing information with the government.

4. Confirm your insurance coverage

If you have professional liability insurance from McFarlan-Rowlands, your policy covers you for telephone and e-counselling worldwide, as long as you are following all rules/regulations where you are and your clients are, and all claims are brought in Canada.

If you do not have insurance with McFarlan-Rowlands, please confirm that your provider’s professional liability insurance covers the specific scope of your online practice.

5. Get trained

RPs are required to be competent in the topic or method you are using to treat clients. Online practice requires a different method of connecting with clients, as well as knowledge of how to use technology effectively.

Click here for a list of popular online therapy platforms