In 2009 Dr. Martha Ireland decided to relocate her established private psychotherapy practice of more than 20 years to another state in order to be closer to her family. Although the move was for a good reason, Dr. Ireland worried about her patients and spent a lot of time weighing her decision. Who would help her patients? How would her patients react to transitioning to a new clinician? Would her patients feel betrayed by her move? Would they cancel therapy altogether following her move? The therapeutic relationship, she knows, takes a long time to grow, and trust is built as much on time and non-judgmental communication as it is on clinical knowledge and specialized training.
Her son-in-law, an IT security professional, and her daughter, VTC co-founder Jennifer Jones, suggested that together they develop a video conferencing system to allow Dr. Ireland to work with her clients from a distance. What a great idea! The internet makes so many things possible and existing technologies could be leveraged to conduct sessions via videoconference. Yes, there would be differences—but those would be delivery differences, not style or format differences.
It did not take this team very long to realize that the solution they were seeking did not already exist—at least not in a format that was truly HIPAA compliant. HIPAA compliance is both a regulatory obligation and an ethical duty, so finding a compliant solution was mandatory. If a compliant solution doesn’t exist, then we’ll create one, thought the team.
The light bulb turned on: Whatever solution the team could create to allow Dr. Ireland to continue to support her clients from a distance could also assist other clinicians in the same way! It could also help potential patients identify and connect with practitioners if they, for whatever reason, couldn’t see a practitioner face to face! In Dr. Ireland’s own experience, some individuals were shy to be seen sitting in waiting rooms; some had careers that prevented a consistent session schedule; some were handicapped and dependent on others for transportation; others couldn’t drive; and so on. Dr. Ireland knew immediately that a virtual environment could reach even these patients, and many more, by providing a private, convenient and dependable way to meet.
The team drafted their vision: they wanted to develop an IT portal that would provide the highest standard in ethical practice and online security while supporting video teleconferencing, private messaging, file sharing, and other emerging technologies in order to facilitate quality care. Out of this plan, Virtual Therapy Connect was born!
Now that the team had a plan and a vision, they got to work. As part of the business development process, Dr. Ireland and Ms. Jones began connecting with leaders in the IT industry as well as with lawyers who specialize in HIPAA and HITECH compliance. These connections helped them to understand the needs and obligation of their business plan and introduced them to professionals who shared their passion for the social mission of Virtual Therapy Connect. These legal, technical and financial professionals were eager to help the VTC team solidify the business concept of the network and speed the realization of its social benefits. Learn more about the team that first conceived Virtual Therapy Connect, and about the professionals whose expertise drive our plans and efforts so that we can bring both patients and practitioners together in connections that make a difference.