The growth of technology provides new ways of communicating with clients, and may enable members to work with clients who have limited mobility, or who live in isolated areas. It also poses new challenges.
Generally, rules that apply to the provision of professional services also apply to the provision of services by electronic means. For example, members must follow established professional practices, such as assessment, developing a plan of therapy, maintaining records and communicating appropriately with other providers. Confidentiality must be maintained no matter what medium is used.
When using electronic means of communication (e.g. telephone, Voice Over IP, e-mail, video conferencing, etc.), members do so ethically, and ensure they are not using the technology to circumvent safeguards that would otherwise apply.
Communication technologies and consent
A member may provide professional services using electronic communication technology only if the member receives consent from the client for use of such technology. In addition:
- before providing services via electronic communication technologies, a member enters into a contract with the client concerned. Note: This does not preclude using electronic communication technologies in developing the contract;
- members do not provide therapeutic services to anonymous clients; and
- members should employ extreme caution in providing advice, clinical assessment, or clinical information accessible to the general public on websites, blogs, forums, or other communication platforms.
Members must take reasonable steps to ensure that the electronic communication technology employed is secure, confidential and appropriate in the circumstances. If a member intends to use an electronic medium, clients should be made aware of any potential risks, particularly an inability to ensure security and confidentiality that could arise from the use of the technology. Social media outlets, such as Facebook or Twitter, should not be used for therapeutic purposes.
Professional liability insurance and e-practice
Members must ensure that services provided through electronic communication technologies are covered by their professional liability insurance. Insurance coverage varies, and may not cover all clients or clients in all locations. Members should consult their insurance provider.
Standard: Electronic Practice
A member obtains informed consent from clients regarding the use of electronic communication media in the provision of services; takes reasonable steps to ensure that the technology employed is secure, confidential and appropriate in the circumstances; and ensures that his/her professional liability insurance provides sufficient coverage for these services.
Demonstrating the Standard
A member demonstrates compliance with the standard by, for example:
- ensuring that clients provide consent to receiving professional services via a specific electronic communication technology;
- ensuring that clients understand any potential risks associated with the technology;
- taking reasonable steps to ensure that the technology is secure, confidential and appropriate;
- ensuring that their professional liability insurance as required under CRPO by-laws, provides coverage for the services delivered through the medium;
- ensuring that all professional standards are maintained while using this technology
Professional Misconduct Regulation, provision 55
Note: College publications containing practice standards, guidelines or directives should be considered by all members in the care of their clients and in the practice of the profession. College publications are developed in consultation with the profession and describe current professional expectations. It is important to note that these College publications may be used by the College or other bodies in determining whether appropriate standards of practice and professional responsibilities have been maintained.