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The Risks of Skype Therapy

SkypeSkype: For Therapy or Not for Therapy?

Skype is a free-service world-wide video chat to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. While this may seem like another way to offer therapeutic services to patients who are unable to be present physically at the clinical location, it is not to be trusted.[1] Still, “telehealth” is estimated to grow by 55 percent this year alone.1

Skype and HIPAA Violations

Federal and state laws are not designed to regulate specific proprietary entities, such as Skype, as these entities were developed to market to the consumer.1 It was never meant for healthcare. However, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does hold professionals responsible for confidentiality no matter how they conduct their services.1 In fact, HIPAA requires professionals to use equipment that allows for audit trails, as they allow for breaches to be traced. Skype does not allow for audit trails. It can be hacked. It is not confidential.1

Physician Violations Due to Skype

There have recently been several physician violations of professionalism regarding video chat, leading state regulators to step up enforcement.1 The HHS Office of Civil Rights has been working towards tightening HIPAA enforcement.1 Until then, many practices are against using Skype as a communication channel for health issues.1


[1] Maheu, M. M., & McMenamin, J. (2013, March 28). Telepsychiatry: The Perils of Using Skype – Psychiatric Times. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved April 10, 2013, from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/display/article/10168/2131095 Skype.

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