Have you ever wondered if expanding to a second location would help improve your private practice? Do you have clients who struggle to attend sessions regularly due to weather, work schedules, or babysitting issues?
Creating a second location that your current clients can easily access can be a great way to create amazing customer service, but also to create more continuity in the psychotherapy treatment.
So how can you create a second location for less than $50?
You create a virtual office. Don't panic! We aren't saying you need to or want to create a virtual practice. Many therapists already offer phone sessions if their clients need a session and aren't able to come into the office. A virtual office allows you to offer a video session where you can still see the clients response, mannerisms, they can see you. It retains a good deal of what you experience face to face. No, it isn't an exact recreation of the in office experience- but maybe that is ok.
My First Video Care Session
I've been horribly sick for over a week. I realized on Saturday that it was time to see a doctor... This normally would mean going to Urgent Care, trading germs with all the other people there, and spending at least an hour waiting and traveling to and from the appointment. Instead, I sat in my pajamas, met a nice Stanford trained doctor, and he got my healing on track. It felt incredibly comforting to know I could get support without leaving the house this weekend.
Opening a Virtual Office HIPAA
A few things to know about opening a virtual office. While you may think HIPAA has cut and dry set of parameters- the truth is, this act is a moving, breathing piece of legislation. The interpretations of the act are constantly shifting, and our requirements to keep information safe change as the technical landscape around us changes. While you could use a free resource like Skype or Vsee- neither include a Business Associate Agreement.
Business Associate Agreement
What is wonderful about choosing a service that includes a business associate agreement (BAA) is that the HITECH act of 2011 gave real responsibility to those claiming to be hipaa compliant. That provides protection and peace of mind for you as the provider. Someone signing a BAA is someone agreeing to be liable for problems with security- up to 1.5 million dollars per year!
So how do you get started?
At ACA Kelly and I (and Joe Sanok from Practice of the Practice) got a chance to play with Thera-Link's video conferencing system live. They had a therapist on live standby hanging out to talk to people who wanted to try it out. I was really amazed by the quality of the picture and the sound- especially considering we were in a big exhibitor hall with thousands of people. Fun fact: We complimented her on her beautiful office- turns out she was using her kitchen at her house. She did a great job setting up the webcam so we would never know!
Thera-link starts with a free 15 day trial , and then is just $30 a month for limited # sessions per month or $45 for unlimited sessions. Whenever doing a free trial- just put a date in your calendar to really explore the program and make a decision.
What I liked about Theralink
Beyond the great video and audio- I loved that it was focused on being a great client experience. A beautiful waiting room, nice music options (if you want them), and an ability to keep everything else in your practice the same (they don't require clients to pay through their system for example). It was really clear this was developed for therapists, by therapists. Y'all know I'm a sucker for programs that really get what we work with clinically.
How Virtual Sessions Can Improve Your Business
"Weather" isn't really a thing in California for the most part. But, in Seattle, snow shuts down the entire city. In many parts of the country- people get snowed in, or leaving the house can be truly dangerous. Having an option beyond phone sessions can lead to more continuity of care and reduce no-shows or late cancellations. It can also be just great customer service if you are working with new moms who might not be ready to leave their child every week- and can plan their appointments around nap schedules.
Other uses for a Virtual Office
Are you looking to move from part-time to full-time private practice but still your office won't be ready for a few more weeks? A virtual office could help you in the gap time in lieu of scheduling clients out several weeks. Do you share an office with a colleague and starting to overlap a bit too much? A virtual office might be good for times when this happens unexpectedly, or it might be a sign it is time for your own office!
Best Practices for Virtual Sessions
Reviews the risks and benefits and document in the file.
Ask client to ensure the space they are using will be private (nobody else walking around and listening in).
Give client a chance to verbalize any questions about the platform
Clarify that the sessions aren't recorded
Turn off everything else on your computer. Log off of Facebook, email, etc. so you have no distractions.
Keep your same process you use in session for continuity.
Consider asking your therapist to provide you with 1 or more video session so you can experience it from the point of view of the client. (Yalom thinks you should!)
You can check out the free trial with Thera-Link here. Person Centered Tech also interviewed them to review their HIPAA compliance which is awesome! Post your questions about opening up a second virtual location in the comments below. Or, share your experiences with offering video sessions in the past.