Alright, friends. As I write this, June 12, I am exactly 3 months out from the last day, March 12, that I saw clients in the office. What the what, am I right? I will not go down the “who ever expected this” rabbit hole that my brain loves to pursue, as that would be neither uplifting nor helpful to most of you (if you want to go there, message me, happy to kevetch about the pandemic and everything else wrong with our world right now).
But not here, not now. Right now, I’m going to share with you all the must haves to survive telehealth! In fact, some of these tools are so great that you’ll want them in your office, whether or not you are live with people or behind a screen.
(Please note that I am using affiliate links in this article. Of course, you can always go directly to those websites without using my links. And if you do use my links, thank you.)
First off, you need secure ways to interact with your clients and store files. You can, of course, use paper files, but that creates both a storage issue as well as difficulty with ways to send and receive completed paperwork. An EHR, electronic health record, will solve those problems for you. If you are not already using one, take some time to comparison shop and decide which best meets your needs. Typical features include integrated booking, billing, and note taking, form completion, insurance billing and invoicing, ability to run reports (for instance, revenue, unpaid balances, etc), secure messaging features, and appointment reminders. Some include credit card integrations, which could make life super easy but may come at extra cost (more on that in a moment). I use and like Simple Practice, but there are definitely other options available and this is something important enough to your practice management that you’ll be well served to research it well. If you use this Simple Practice free trial link, you’ll save $50 if you sign up for a paid plan.
Next, you’ll need to think about getting paid (Ka-ching!). The easiest way to collect payment for an online practice is by credit card since you will not have people in your office to hand you checks/cash for payments and co-pays. Plus lots of us don’t really want to be touching too much stuff right now anyway, whether we are in the office or not. You have options, the simplest of which is to use the processor integrated in your EHR. Another great option for therapists is Ivy Pay, which uses a HIPAA secure platform to store client credit cards and allows the therapist to charge them as appointments occur. All credit card processors will charge something (translation: the amount of money you make per session will decrease). If that freaks you out, do some math first. Most card processors I have seen charge somewhere between 2.6 and around 4%, and some also charge a per-transaction fee (usually under $1). That means if you are running a credit card for $100, with a 3.5% fee, you will make 96.50. So the convenience of the card processing and the availability of funds almost immediately costs you $3.50 in that scenario. For me, it’s worth it to not chase down money, but you need to make your own decisions about what’s best for your practice. This is also something to consider when setting your session rates. If you want to give Ivy Pay a shot, you can use this link to run your first $1000 in charges with no fees, and after that fees are just 2.75% at the time that I’m writing this.
Finally, you need a way to connect for video sessions. There are a lot of options out there. You want to be mindful to use an option that is HIPAA covered (even if you are not a HIPAA covered entity, more and more states are moving to this as the standard of practice). I’ve also found that even though the federal government has waived some HIPAA requirements during this pandemic (for instance, they have allowed some non HIPAA secured platforms to be used for telehealth), some insurance and EAP companies still require the HIPAA secure platforms. I use doxy.me, which is free. Simple Practice has an upgraded membership that includes video access, so that is something else you can consider. Finally, G-Suite through google offers a BAA to make the service HIPAA compliant, which will provide you with HIPAA compliant email, video (through google meets, which allows for groups of people), and a telephone option through google voice. To get a free 14 day trial of G=Suite, click here. And use my promo code for 20% off charges for the first year! (Promo Code F7JYN4KYXJM9VRT for basic plan and W9TF3NJ9JQ6AHQ6 for the business plan)
The last step in access is to shore up how you connect with the internet. I had MASSIVE difficulties with this when I first shifted to 100% online work in March. I was competing with half the state it seemed to get on internet servers, as well as three school-from-home peeps with whom I share my house. My solution was to purchase a completely separate modem and internet access for my business at my home address. I will keep it at least until life returns to semi-normal. If a separate modem is not an option but you need better access, you might consider upgrading your connection speed, moving your router closer to your computer, and/or plugging your computer directly into an ethernet cord. I’ve read suggestions not to go longer than a 25 foot ethernet cord, so you may need to use a cord and move your modem to make it work.
Stuff that makes it easier
Once you have fully online operations and access, you can think about the tools that will make life easeir for you as a remote therapist. Next week, I’ll share a round up of all the tools I’ve found that make online therapy a little easier and more seamless, so I can focus on providing service and not the video quality. See you then!