FFFWorking with Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists in the Digital Age

No. 132; August 2020

Healthcare technologies are changing rapidly. Child and adolescent psychiatrists increasingly use digital health tools such as video and messaging technologies, patient portals, and electronic health records. As a parent seeking care for your child, it is important to understand why and how these tools are used and what the risks and benefits are of using them. When seeking mental health care, you may want to ask how the clinician uses technology. Some clinicians use paper charts, while others use electronic records. While digital health tools can be very convenient and provide valuable information, it is important to understand how this data is used and protected. Asking the following questions can help you decide if a clinician’s use of technology will be a good fit for you and your family.

Virtual appointments

  • Does this practice offer visits via video (telepsychiatry)?
    • What program is used?
    • What measures are taken to make sure information is protected and confidential?
    • Are there any differences in cost or how insurance coverage works for visits via video or phone compared to in person?
    • Does video have to be used or can the appointment be by phone?

Health records

  • Does this practice use an electronic health record or paper charts?
    • Is the electronic health record shared or accessible between providers and systems?
    • Is it possible to opt out of or limit a clinician’s use of electronic records for my child?

Patient portal

  • Is there a patient portal where I can access my child’s information, such as upcoming appointments, health records, and billing information?
    • Does my access depend on the age of my child?
    • Who has access in the case of divorced parents?
    • Can a full medical record be accessed through the portal?
      • If not, how can the record be requested?

Providing clinical information

  • Will electronic surveys or symptoms rating scales be sent out to us?
    • Are they sent via the portal, email, text message or an app?
    • How are they used in treatment?
    • Who has access to this information?
  • Can we share data from our devices or health tracking apps, such as apps that track mood, sleep patterns or steps walked?



  • How are email, text messages and voicemail used in this practice?
    • What measures are taken to maintain confidentiality and security when communicating using text messages or email?
    • Are texting and email for requests such as scheduling changes or can they be used to discuss concerns about my child?
    • Can my child contact their clinician directly via text, voicemail or email?
  • What is the best way to reach out in case of an emergency?


Prescription refills

  • How do we request prescription refills between appointments?
    • Are prescriptions sent electronically to pharmacies?
    • Can all types of prescriptions be sent electronically, including prescriptions for controlled substances such as stimulant medications?


  • How do I access billing information?
  • Can bills be paid electronically?


These are some questions that can help you understand how digital health tools are used. Federal and state laws, insurance plans and other policies can impact the use of technology in the care of your child. Ask the child and adolescent psychiatrist or health care provider you are working with if you have additional questions or concerns.


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