Telehealth is an exciting new development in the counseling community. However, many providers don’t know how to get started. If you have an in-person counseling practice established, including telehealth within your existing business model can be a way to save your business both time and money. More and more clients are looking for the convenience of virtual care, and providing telehealth services can be a way to expand your private practice reach while retaining more clients. This equates to both time and money saved for your business. There are many ways to incorporate telehealth services into an in-person practice. Finding the steps that make sense for both you and your clients is important.
Here are 4 ways you can integrate telehealth into your private practice:
Choose a HIPAA-Compliant method of communication: Before taking a leap into telehealth appointments, make sure your intended method of communication is HIPAA-compliant. This will ensure your client’s private health information remains secure. This is why it’s a good idea to use a telehealth platform, like Healthie, that is already HIPAA-compliant.
Pro tip: Popular telehealth methods, such as Facetime, Skype, text messages, and many more are not HIPAA-compliant and could leave your client’s private health information vulnerable. You must create a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) with the third-party communication service provider to require that they uphold HIPAA compliance within their own security system.
Decide which services you will offer: Are you going to begin taking on virtual-only clients or will the inclusion of telehealth at your practice act more as an added benefit for clients who also meet you for in-person sessions? Telehealth can greatly expand where the clients you see are from. If you intend to start seeing out-of-state clients, first remember to check with the state licensure laws. Also, consider what types of services will be transferable to a virtual practice (and are covered by insurance, if applicable). We see many practices offer telehealth options for follow up sessions after an in-person initial consultation. We have also seen practices begin to take on solely virtual clients in addition to their clients who come for in-person sessions.
Try out a test run: You’ll feel more confident before your first telehealth consultation with a client if you hold a test run with a family member or friend beforehand. Here are a few things to think about:
- What is the step-by-step process to log into your video chat? Do you need to download any software or an internet browser? Is a log-in, if any, required? Make it a fool-proof process for your clients.
- What will be required of your client during the session?
- If they are required to have any tools or equipment (i.e., microphone, headphones, etc.) for your session, you should specify prior to your appointment time.
- How will billing work for virtual sessions? Decide how you will accept payment so you can communicate with your client about this at the appropriate time, before or after your session.
Start with a few clients: Consider inviting clients you have a good, lasting relationship with to sign up for a telehealth session. This way, you can see how the session is working with a client who is willing to help you with any of the first session awkwardness or technological hiccups you’ll find with any virtual video conferencing session. Once you’ve tried this a few times with a few different clients, you may feel ready to start offering telehealth more broadly. When you’re comfortable offering your telehealth services, you can begin advertising and figuring out just where you would like telehealth to fit into your practice.x