Coronavirus: Restrictions lifted on Dubai clinics offering remote mental healthcare

Psychologists at Dubai Healthcare City appeal for help from insurers to pay for online counselling during isolation

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Restrictions on psychologists offering online mental health services in Dubai have been lifted to allow patients in isolation to access counselling.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, few insurers would pay for virtual counselling sessions as it was considered a different service to a physical appointment and not covered under pre-agreed pricing plans.

Those limits have now been lifted for clinics in Dubai Healthcare City to allow those staying at home to continue their treatment.

“People still need to access our services if they are under quarantine, and this is an easy way to do this,” said Timo Brosic, chief executive of the German Neuroscience Centre in DHCC.

“Online counselling is not a new service and we have the same doctors and psychologists offering a similar service, but via a secure virtual clinic.

“Without it, it could be very damaging, as these people have often been under continuous treatment and on medication.

“We don’t know how long this will continue for, and we still need to offer these people support, even when there should be limited physical interaction.”

Although the issue was not a concern for cash patients, when doctors at GNC asked for pre-approval from insurers to pay for online counselling, payments were rejected.

That changed this week when regulators appealed for insurers to cover the costs of patients having treatment at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I raised the issue with the regulators and shared my concerns with insurers not paying for people to have the online counselling they need,” said Mr Brosic.

“The risk was a large part of the clinic’s population would no longer be able to access this kind of counselling.

“The situation may worsen, so we have to be prepared that this may become more common.

“We now know that insurers will cover the costs.”

Generally, only the more expensive health insurance plans cover the cost of any mental health treatment.

Dubai Healthcare City Authority – Regulatory announced the ease of certain requirements related to tele-consultations and home healthcare services on Friday.

As part of the new measures, healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses and other health professionals, can work in multiple facilities when providing Covid-19 related care, without the need to obtain approvals.

Facilities are now authorised to provide home healthcare services within licensed specialties to existing patients, without formal approval from DHCR.

“We are working closely with the relevant health authorities to update our measures to enhance our preparedness in responding to the requirements of this evolving situation,” said Dr Ramadan AlBlooshi, DHCA chief regulatory officer.

“This will help ensure the safety of public and healthcare professionals.”