Online Clinical Practice Management
(OCPM): Referrals, Client Education,
Obtaining and giving referrals, training clients for treatment, and obtaining consent are functions that many clinicians might perform without much thought. With each step, however, a little forethought can spare aggravation and possible litigation when the professional relationship is mediated or supplemented with technology. Chapter 11 introduces the OCPM model for online clinical practice and discusses professional training. This chapter discusses options for referrals, the educational needs of clients, and issues related to essential agreements for clinical practice when using various technologies. Chapter 13 focuses on the delivery and reimbursement steps of the model.
In psychotherapy and counseling practice, accepting referrals has been primarily by telephone. Referrals are increasingly being controlled by insurance companies, in line with the overall shift in power created by the market forces described in chapter 1. Many insurance companies in the United States ask clients to dial the 800 numbers listed on their insurance cards and request a list of potential practitioners. Some companies refer clients to Web pages that list provider panels searchable by ZIP code and specialty.
As economic pressures force insurance companies to compete for market share, they will follow the trend toward increasing automation in order to lower costs. It is much less expensive for insurance companies to send potential clients to the Internet than to staff telephone lines. Liability for the insurance companies also might decrease when a client selects a practitioner from a long list rather than being assigned to a single professional by a referral or triage specialist.
Insurance companies are not alone in listing professionals on the Internet. Using tools ranging from electronic yellow pages to organizational rosters, many groups are promoting health care professionals. The next section discusses these Internet-based referral systems and provides suggestions for their use.
Directory Web sites develop databases of professional contact information and categorize the information according to specialty, location, or other criteria. Insurance