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. How would her patients react to transitioning to a new clinician? Would her patients feel abandoned by her move and regress in their recovery? Would they cancel therapy altogether following her move? The therapeutic relationship is extremely important for recovery and it takes time be established. If possible, she wanted to preserve the relationships with her clients.
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 secure sessions via videoconference. Yes, there would be differences—but those would be delivery differences, not therapeutic differences.
It did not take this team very long to realize that the solution they were seeking at that time did not already exist—at least not in a format that was truly HIPAA and HiTech compliant. HIPAA and HiTech 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; and so on. Dr. Ireland knew immediately that a virtual environment could reach even those 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.
There have been challenges along the way, especially as people moved away from desktop PC’s to mobile devices. The team continued to be innovative and creative to meet the new technology needs of practitioners and clients. The plan and vision continued to grow and Virtual Therapy Connect gave birth to the VTConnect Application, a HiPAA and HiTech compliant, cross-platform mobile device app for virtual sessions. As a company, we remain creative and open to change because technology is always evolving, and so we continue to embrace a pioneering spirit in our product development. Tele-medicine is a new frontier for practitioners and clients, and it is VTConnect’s mission to make the technology experience secure and user friendly, so users can have meaningful secure connections even at a distance! Dr. Ireland has achieved her initial therapeutic goal and maintains her client relationships using the VTConnect App.