Telemedicine* (see April 14, 2021 update)

Federal Air Surgeon Allows Telemedicine

On July 15, 2020, the Federal Air Surgeon’s office issued a directive from former FAS Dr. Berry that allows telemedicine appointments for first-time FAA psychiatric evaluations. In March 2020, Dr. Berry allowed telemedicine appointments for follow up visits, after at least one in-person visit. Before March, all visits with a HIMS psychiatrist had to occur in a doctor’s office.

The standards have been flexed because of the coronavirus and to minimize unnecessary travel of the pilot.

*On April 14, 2021, HIMS psychiatrists received instruction from the FAA’s Chief of Psychiatry and Assistant Chief of Psychiatry about the best use of telemedicine. With the wide availability of vaccines, the FAA’s psychiatrists no longer believe that a virtual appointment is an acceptable method for the first assessment of a First Class certificate holder or applicant.

Virtual follow-up appointments were not addressed at the same depth, but the trend has been among the conference attendees to discourage virtual appointments. My interpretation is that a follow up visit for a current First Class certificate holder should be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the risk of travel to the pilot assessed as high risk based on pre-existing health issues of the pilot or coronavirus-related surges in the pilot’s community.

PROS AND CONS OF TELEMEDICINE

  • PRO: Telemedicine reduces the risk of coronavirus exposure to the pilot and the psychiatrist.

  • CON: The FAA has established telemedicine as a temporary and acceptable solution while asserting that an in-office visit with a psychiatrist remains the gold standard.
  • CON: Some evaluations require the psychiatrist’s head-to-toe observation of the patient, which you cannot do by telemedicine.

Preparing for a Telemedicine Appointment

  • You should not schedule a telemedicine appointment until you and I have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of telemedicine with your case. You can call me at 720 399 9620 or email gregkirk@avipsy.org.
  • Your doctor has to be licensed in the state where you are located.
  • Dr. Kirk is licensed in Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.
  • You must be within the boundary of one of the four to do a telemedicine appointment with me.
  • If not at your own home, you could be at a friend’s house, hotel, or business center. Something like that.
  • You must have a private space where you will be uninterrupted and able to speak about confidential issues for up to four hours.
  • You must have broadband internet allowing at least 3.2 Mbps upload and download. Not sure how fast your internet is? Check your bandwidth by clicking the speedo.
  • You can use a desktop computer, laptop computer, or a tablet. Phones are not preferred!
  • It’s best to access the internet using a wired Ethernet connection. WiFi should work, too, as long as you are close to the router and you do not have channel interference.
  • You should not use a cellular hotspot, even if the connection speed tests at higher than 3.2 Mbps.
  • If using a desktop or laptop, you don’t need any special software. You will access the meeting using a secure, HIPAA compliant link that will open in any browser.
  • If using a tablet, you should download, install, and test the Google Meet app for your platform

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