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How to ID a New Patient or Client Online?
Consumers have forged fake ID cards for decades. Even high school kids know how to use phoney ID cards to gain entrance to clubs with bouncers directly examining those IDs with flashlights. Is it adequate for us as mental health professionals to simply ask a distant client to fax, scan or mail a driverís license for online therapy when we havenít met them in-person?
Given that the populations we serve can include people with characterological disorders as well as serious mental illness, most institutional-based telehealth programs such as those now commonplace in the military, the Veteranís Administration, teaching and private hospitals usually require at least a single in-person identification process to be conducted by a responsible party before telehealth services are rendered.
Most often conducted by an admin or a nurse, close examination is made of the client or patient, as well as one or more forms of identification. Required forms of ID often include a driverís license and an insurance card. Next of kin are named and contact numbers are requested. Medical records are accessed. Release forms, HIPAA agreements and multiple other documents are signed. Slip-shod and unprofessional procedures exist in some places, but they certainly are not the norm.
If we look beyond our own arena, we can see that other professions also require more reliability in their identification processes, too. For example, in the legal world the signing of legal documents is taken quite seriously. Notaries are trained and licensed to verify ID in person, take a thumb print, and only then sign a document verifying that we are indeed who we say we are. Why should our professional requirements be any more lax?