5 Things Oklahoma Clinicians Should Know Before Practicing Telehealth Across State Lines

Posted By: Hayley Twyman Brack Licensure Board Updates,

A therapist sits at a desk and smiles and waves at a laptop screen.

Pictured above: A therapist sits at a desk and smiles and waves at a laptop screen.

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has led many Oklahoma mental health clinicians to move much, if not all, of their services online. Though telehealth has been more commonly offered over the last year, there are still some uncertainties many providers face when it comes to providing services to clients in other states. So here are 5 things Oklahoma clinicians need to know before practicing telehealth across state lines.

Oklahoma Boards Allow Licensed Clinicians to Practice in Other States
The Oklahoma Board of Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Board of Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors, and Board of Behavioral Health were all contacted last week to confirm their respective regulations regarding Oklahoma licensed clinicians’ ability to practice across state lines. According to representatives from each board, Oklahoma license-holders may render telehealth services with clients who are in other states at the time of session. However, each representative reiterated the importance of clinicians also having permission from the other states’ licensing boards before holding a tele-health session with a client in that state.

Not All States’ Boards Allow Oklahoma Clinicians to Practice There
States have differing regulations when it comes to allowing out-of-state clinicians to hold telehealth services with a client currently within the state lines. Some states allow for out-of-state license holders to hold telehealth sessions with clients visiting the state temporarily, while other states completely forbid it. For example, phone calls to the respective boards revealed that the states of Texas and North Carolina do not allow clinicians who are not licensed in the state to provide telehealth services to individuals currently within the state. Even if a client is temporarily visiting either state, the respective mental health licensing boards do not allow clinicians not licensed in the state to hold telehealth services. On the other hand, according to a state licensing board representative, Washington state allows for clinicians to hold telehealth services with visitors or temporary residents of the state (ex. college students) as long as the client is in the state for fewer than 90 days.

It is Important to Document the Client’s Exact Location Each Session
It is important to document a client’s current address at the beginning of a telehealth session not only to be able to dispatch emergency services in case of a crisis, but also so state law isn’t inadvertently broken. If a client is joining a telehealth session from a state in which the clinician is not licensed and does not have permission to practice in, the clinician may be opening themselves up to liability.

Clinicians Should Be Familiar with the Laws in Each State in Which They’re Practicing
State laws vary in regards to expectations and regulations for administering telehealth services. If a license is obtained or permission is given by a licensing board to practice in a different state, clinicians must observe the laws and regulations set by the state in which the client is in during a telehealth session. For instance, though the Oklahoma Board of Behavioral Health does not currently have restrictions on which video conferencing platforms clinicians may use to render services, be aware that other states may have such restrictions.

It’s Important to Check Back with Boards Regularly
Due to restrictions and lockdowns initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic, many licensing boards have set temporary regulations for providing telehealth services over the past year. However, some states’ initial protocols for allowing out-of-state clinicians to practice within state lines have expired. For example, in 2020 the State of Kansas allowed out-of-state clinicians to apply for free provisional licenses to practice telehealth within the state. However, the free provisional licenses expired on December 31st, 2020 and now clinicians must pay to become provisionally or fully licensed in order to provide telehealth services to clients visiting or residing in Kansas.

As always, call or email a state’s respective board for permission before providing telehealth services to a client in the state. For more information on considerations for providing telehealth across state lines, visit www.personcenteredtech.com or www.telehealth.org