Can you use FaceTime for Therapy?

FaceTime is Apple’s amazing video chat app that comes free on Macs and iOS devices. Given that it’s ubiquitous with Mac and iOS users, it seems like it would be a great choice for online counseling. Unfortunately, it’s not.

What makes a video system HIPAA compliant?

These days, the issue around HIPAA compliant video conferencing isn’t generally about the technology. It’s about the Business Associates Agreement. The technology is part of the equation, but in the case of FaceTime, the actual video itself is encrypted and Apple can’t “intercept” video, nor is video recorded. However, that you need an Apple ID to use FaceTime and records of those calls are kept in iCloud, that would necessitate a Business Associates Agreement to ensure that practitioners are compliant.

In terms of the practitioner, the specific technology isn’t as important as the BAA. That document is what indemnifies your business in the event of a data breach.

The cost of a HIPAA violation to your business

Without a BAA, you are directly liable, which, given how frequently large companies have had data compromises, can be very risky for your business. HIPAA violations can be as much as $10,000 per record. That means if you have information on 50 clients and that data is compromised, you would be facing a $500,000 fine! Using a HIPAA compliant system is worth the expense. Call it insurance. Call it peace of mind. Call it the ethical choice. Whatever you call it, it’s essential that you take HIPAA seriously — which precludes using something like FaceTime for therapy.

We’ve written in the past about Skype and HIPAA. Be sure to read our article Is Skype HIPAA compliant? for a detailed explanation of the dangers of using Skype.

Of course, we’re iCouch, so we certainly have a vested interest in warning against FaceTime or Skype, however that doesn’t change the facts. We certainly would love it if you were using our system, but the most important thing is that you don’t use a non-compliant system.

If you want more information about HIPAA, be sure to check out our article A gentle introduction to HIPAA for therapists. It’ll get you well versed in the basics. Of course, feel free to let us know in the comments if you have any questions about HIPAA, FaceTime, or Skype!

Published by Brian Dear

Brian is the cofounder and CEO of iCouch, Inc. He has an extensive background in software engineering, inbound marketing and mental health practice management.

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