Besides being your own boss, running your private therapy practice means choosing who you work with and getting a sense of accomplishment. But on the other side of the coin, it also means more challenges, namely juggling your resources between different responsibilities.
For starters, you’ll have to do a ton of admin work, ranging from completing insurance reimbursement forms (if you decide to take insurance) to taking therapy notes for your clients. Your list of to-dos will be long, especially during the first year of your business.
Fortunately, running a therapy practice isn’t a one-man (or woman) show because you can hire a virtual assistant to help you out. These professionals are trained, experienced, and equipped to provide support to therapists.
What Is a Virtual Assistant and What are The Benefits of Hiring One?
A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who helps health professionals with their clerical or administrative duties. They take on different responsibilities depending on the company or client that hires them.
In general, a virtual assistant for therapists takes care of basic patient needs from a remote location by receiving and making calls, responding to queries sent online (emails, social media, and others), and assisting with various administrative tasks that the therapy practice might demand.
The market for virtual assistants in the US is expected to reach $5.3 billion in 2028. The number proves that the medical industry recognizes the benefits of bringing virtual assistants into a private practice, which include:
Improve Compliance With the No Surprises Act
The No Surprises Act was enacted on January 1, 2022, to prevent patients from receiving surprise bills. Non-compliance with the act can lead to penalties of up to $10,000.
Having a virtual assistant can help lessen your practice’s risk of non-compliance as they can give clients notice of the estimate of their treatment costs.
Manage Patient Prior Authorizations
A virtual assistant for therapists can handle various tasks for the practice, namely determining the cost of care, the client’s eligibility for benefits, and whether prior authorization is required.
A virtual assistant can also make follow-ups to expedite the submission of claims and the processing of payments. As a result, the practice can provide a better client experience.
Reduce Administrative Burden
Virtual assistants for therapists can reduce your administrative burden as they proactively take ownership of patient appointment scheduling through online messages and outbound calls. And because they work remotely, you can hire a virtual assistant located in a timezone different from the location of your practice, so you can provide 24/7 customer service without having to stretch your schedule or take on more administrative work.
A study from the National Library of Medicine shows that medical providers spend 35% of their time documenting patient data. By hiring a virtual assistant, you can have someone with experience in document management and data entry take over. This frees up your time, which you can use to accommodate more patients.
Hiring a virtual assistant can reduce costs because their hourly rates are lower compared to their in-house counterparts. Your private practice also saves more money as you don’t have to provide equipment, such as a computer and desk, to your virtual assistant.
The biggest savings you can get from hiring a virtual assistant is the time and money spent on training. Most virtual assistants for therapists have been in the medical industry for years and already understand their roles and responsibilities.
Reduce Non-Clinical Stress
Mental Health America reports that there are about 350 individuals for every one mental health provider in the US. Because of the shortage of therapists in the country, the workload has been unbearable to some, and the burnout rate of therapists skyrocketed.
Virtual assistants for therapists rely on technology that enables patients to communicate using their channel of choice — whether that’s emails, phone calls, or live chats. Their ability to cater to patients remotely can lessen your workload, resulting in lesser risks of burnout.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 96% of therapists will still provide telehealth services to clients even after the pandemic. While this channel is convenient for clients, it requires a lot of preparation for therapists.
Virtual assistants can assist therapists in setting up appointments and preparing the set-up of the sessions. This way, less time is wasted, and therapists can accommodate as many clients as possible during the day.
Improve Your Practice’s Branding
To improve your client’s experience, you shouldn’t only provide the best medical care possible — you should also ask for and manage online reviews. The 2022 Healthcare Reputation Report shows 72% of patients rely on online reviews when choosing a healthcare provider or facility.
A virtual assistant can manage your practice’s online reputation by professionally responding to online testimonials. This shows how much your practice values your client’s opinions.
You can also hire a virtual assistant with marketing experience. In doing so, you’ll have someone qualified to complete different marketing tasks, such as email marketing or social media marketing.
Improving your practice’s online reputation leads to increased brand awareness. Over time, this will make your practice more visible online and encourage more clients to consider selecting your practice.
5 Steps To Take When Hiring A Virtual Assistant For Therapists
Is this your first time hiring a virtual assistant? Or did you hire one in the past but were unsatisfied with your relationship with them? Whatever the case may be, it’s crucial to take certain steps when hiring a virtual assistant. This will ensure you create an amazing and productive relationship with your virtual assistant.
Set Expectations in the First 90 Days
Unlike working with an in-house staff where you can pop into their workspace to check their progress, virtual assistants work remotely. This means that tracking their work might be more challenging than usual.
Because of this, it’s super important to set clear expectations before your virtual assistant starts to work. Ideally, you should discuss the following with them:
- HIPAA Compliance: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, is a federal law created to safeguard sensitive patient health information and sets conditions and limits on disclosures and uses.
To ensure the HIPAA compliance of your virtual assistant, training should be provided to keep devices secure (they should lock or shut down devices when not in use) and use social media wisely (restrict them from posting texts or images about what happens at work).
- Instructions on tasks: Be crystal clear on the tasks you want completed, and provide the information necessary for your virtual assistant to complete those tasks. It’s best to provide written procedures or processes to your virtual assistant, as this will significantly reduce the time you need to train them.
Manage Your Expectations
Just as how you’re going to set your virtual assistant’s expectations, it’s also important to set yours. Since they’re still new, you need to know that:
- Adjusting your workload and flow with a VA requires time
- As you’re training your VA, your productivity will temporarily decrease
- Onboarding a VA can be stressful and frustrating at times
But as long as you exert time and effort, it won’t be long before your virtual assistant can improve your professional and personal life.
Identify Your Ideal Communication Method
Since virtual assistants work remotely, it’s important to determine communication channels. Before you start giving tasks to them, identify which channel you are going to use to communicate tasks and how they’re going to confirm once these tasks are complete.
You can use emails or online chats for these purposes. Or, if you want to do more using one tool, consider using specific software for tracking tasks or project management, like Asana, Trello, ClickUp, or Basecamp.
Find Your Working Rhythm
Working with a virtual assistant is like dancing with a partner — the two of you should work together to find that rhythm. Once you find that working rhythm, your workflow improves, and you get to establish a professional relationship with your virtual assistant. These help your private practice move forward.
To help you find your working rhythm, have check-in meetings (probably at the start of the week), provide positive reinforcement, and make it a habit to offer constructive feedback.
Identify Tasks to Delegate
One rule of thumb to follow when identifying which tasks to delegate is: if you can teach someone else to complete a task, you probably shouldn’t spend time actually doing it. This means that if you can teach someone to input client data on software, it’s best if you let them take over the task.
Additionally, you should keep doing what you love doing and let your virtual assistant take care of the rest. This will help you grow professionally, plus you’ll be able to make the most out of your virtual assistant’s skills and experience.
Transform Your Practice With a VA
By delegating administrative tasks to a virtual assistant, you can free up valuable time and resources, allowing you to focus on delivering personalized care to your clients. Just ensure that your virtual assistant follows HIPAA regulations to prevent data breaches that can damage the reputation of your practice and result in legal and financial penalties.