Free teletherapy video software is back!
The first wave of COVID-19 in the United States blew the doors off of the Internet, and many providers of free teletherapy video platforms had to shut down their free service tiers. For that reason, we temporarily closed down this article.
Now that things have stabilized some (well, at least in terms of Internet traffic), we can reopen this article!
Things have changed a bit, though. We have a newcomer to the stage: Vidhealth. And VSee has been forced by circumstances to stop offering free video service to new users (old users of the free service have been grandfathered in, however!)
Let’s take a look at what we have now.
First: What Do We Need From Our Software?
There are a large number of things we need for our HIPAA compliance when we get a company’s software involved in our therapy services. The most obvious and concrete need is to execute a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement with that company (not sure what that is? See our article, What Is a HIPAA Business Associate?→)
In this article, we will review and compare online therapy software options that:
- Provide a Business Associate Agreement to health care customers for the free version of the software.
- Pass muster when we do an informal, non-rigorous but still much-deeper-than-just-reading-the-website audit/review of the software’s security; and of the company’s attitude towards both security and the usefulness of their product(s) to mental health clinicians.
What products are on our list for review? Colleagues of mine, I give you (in alphabetical order):
- Doxy.me (free for solo practices)
- VidHealth (free for solo practices)
Free Online Therapy Software With All the HIPAA Fixin’s? How?
Each product on our list has its own reasons for being willing to do a HIPAA BAA for no cost. So I’ll just list what each company says about the subject and what you need to do to get that BAA executed with them:
In 2016, Roy had a lovely conversation with Dylan Turner at Doxy.me in which Roy asked a lot of pointed questions for which Dylan had satisfactory answers. His story, and the one described on their website, is that Doxy.me arose out of a grant-funded project to fill a gap in telehealth software services at the university where Doxy.me was born.
They state that the free version is for solo and small practices, and larger clinics can pay for a version with a lot more bells and whistles. There is also a fee to perform calls with more than one client.
Executing a Business Associate Agreement with Doxy.me is a part of the initial setup process. We have verified that no special process is required.
VidHealth came into being in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and immediately started offering free service for one-to-one video sessions. They now charge a fee for group practices. There is also an upgrade option to be able to do sessions with more than one client.
In testing Vidhealth, we discovered its ability to provide a clear connection with multiple clients was better than its competitors. This is significant because all of the free options on this page work in a way that has a harder time the more people are in a call. Vidhealth is no exception to that, but it seems to perform well as it works to manage the extra load. Note: getting more than one client on a Vidhealth call requires upgrading to a paid account.
Executing a Business Associate Agreement requires emailing the company, as explained on their HIPAA compliance page.
Conclusions About Free Online Therapy Software
We see no obviously superior free online therapy software application, but we can see how for different practices one option may be clearly superior to the others.
And lastly, some links to help you find these options (once again, in alphabetical order):
An Important Note
The primary mission of this article is to guide therapists away from software like Skype and Facetime by providing appropriate options that are similarly easy to access and use (i.e. free and simple.)
The fact is, there is a multitude of options out there for performing online therapy, including a number of platforms that provide much more than just the simple video connection provided by the options in this article. Be sure to put some time into finding the best option for you.