The virtual practice is here to stay. What started out as a necessary transition during the pandemic-driven lockdowns has turned into an economical and convenient option for providing care to clients. Many practitioners are reopening the doors to their in-person sessions while still offering telehealth options to those who prefer it, whether because of health reasons or simply because receiving care virtually at home suits them better than going to a physical office.
Although you may have set up your virtual practice last year in a hurry, now you have time to get some perspective and consider how your practice is coming across to your clients. Similar to how you carefully chose the location, office decor, front desk help, and other elements of your brick-and-mortar office to create a pleasant atmosphere, how you present and manage your virtual office also makes a big difference to your clients.
Today, we’re taking a look at what you can do to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward when you invite your clients to receive care virtually.
Make sure your virtual practice is secure
To many clients, a brick-and-mortar office might seem more controllable when it comes to security. It’s easy to assure your clients that the sensitive information they divulge in your sessions remains behind soundproof walls and filed safely away.
However, telehealth can be just as, or more, secure than in-office sessions, although this might not be immediately apparent to your clients. To avoid misunderstandings, It’s best to be transparent about how secure your virtual practice is.
The first thing to do is sign up for a HIPAA-compliant email and web form service like Hushmail. Then explain to your clients how you’ll communicate with them and what they can do to support their security. If you chose Hushmail for your services, you’re in luck. We created a printable guide that introduces your clients to encrypted email and web forms: Welcome to Hushmail: A new user’s guide to Hushmail’s secure message center.
Get your clients started with easy to read and sign forms
One of the most important agreements to establish with a client upfront is how you’ll communicate. As greater numbers seek care online, it’s more important than ever that practitioners state in clear terms what clients can expect. Here are a few forms that will help you start off on the right foot.
- Communications policy - explains in clear terms how a client can expect to communicate with you. It covers the preferred method of communication (i.e., secure email, secure text message, secure contact form on your website, etc.), an estimated response time, contact information in case of an emergency, among other details that reassure a client of their ability to get in touch with you, while also establishing boundaries that benefit both you and your client.
- Email and texting risk questionnaire - helps clients make an informed decision about accepting or not accepting the risks associated with email and text messaging. This questionnaire allows you and your client to discuss what will and won’t be used, how, and to what extent.
- Request for non-secure communications - even after discussing the risks, you might find that some clients still prefer a non-secure means of communication. This form allows clients to choose to use or not use non-secure communications, states that they have been informed of the risks, and requests the client’s signature accepting those risks.
Make sure you’re on the same page with your clients by using these form templates from Person Centered Tech, available when you sign up for a free account with this Hushmail partner. For digital versions of the forms, you can build them yourself with our drag-and-drop form builder or contact us about our form building service, and we’ll be happy to build them for you.
Tips and tricks to great telehealth sessions
Most of us don’t have to think too hard about what to wear or how to conduct ourselves at the office. But what might be second nature in a physical setting might feel all wrong in a virtual one. Beyond the ubiquitous “don’t wear boxer shorts with a nice shirt” advice, here are some things you can do to make sure you’re making the right impression in your virtual sessions.
Test new technology before you use it. Don’t assume all video communication apps are the same. Go through the process of setting up your new account and testing well before your first session.
Ask your client to meet 5, or even 10 minutes, before the session starts. You only need to go through one awkward session when half the time is eaten up with helping your client unmute themselves. Just in case you need to troubleshoot the technology, show up early and ask that your client do the same.
Conduct sessions in an office with a door that closes. You should have just as much control over who comes in and out of your virtual sessions as you do when meeting in person. If you have others in your household, consider putting an “In session” sign on your door to prevent distracting knocks.
Learn the skill of making eye contact through the camera. Eye contact goes a long way toward conveying empathy during a session, but how do you make eye contact when you’re on screen? It might seem most natural to look at your client’s eyes, but depending where they are on your screen, that might not be the effect you want. It’s best to look at your camera lens or just below it.
Do your best to replicate an in-office session. Give your client your full attention, just as you would in a normal session. Don’t look at other things on your screen and offer plenty of positive affirmations. Subtle facial movements or gestures you use in your office to convey empathy might be lost on screen. Speak up and let them know you’re listening.
Dress appropriately. Even if you think you can get away with pajama bottoms, it’s best not to risk it. You never know what might inspire you to suddenly stand up. Besides, part of displaying a professional image is feeling professional, and that’s hard to do when you’re only half dressed.
Hushmail partners can help you set up your virtual practice so it runs smoothly and serves both you and your clients. Several of them offer a special discount. Be sure to sign up through the following links so you don’t miss out.
thera-LINK is a telehealth platform for mental and behavioral health professionals to meet securely with their clients using video technology. thera-LINK also includes scheduling, appointment reminders, credit card payments, and secure document sharing in addition to the video.
TheraNest is an all-in-one practice management software trusted by thousands of mental health professionals. Everything you need to manage your practice in one easy-to-use tool—from unlimited note templates to fully integrated Telehealth features—TheraNest is designed to make your day easier.
TheraPlatform is a secure and HIPAA compliant all-in-one service: practice management, billing, documentation software with integrated video conferencing for mental health providers.
Brighter Vision offers a simple and straightforward process for helping therapists create customized, mobile-responsive websites with built-in search engine optimization and unlimited tech support, to help market your practice and attract new clients.
Person Centered Tech is a national leader in telemental health training. Their Telemental Health Certification program trains mental health clinicians on a comprehensive, standards-based program that prepares you to practice ethically and effectively - and to get paid for doing it.
Need HIPAA-compliant email, web forms, and e-signatures for your virtual practice?
The virtual practice is here to stay. What started out as a necessary transition during the pandemic-driven lockdowns has turned into an economical and convenient option for providing care to clients. We’re taking a look at what you can do to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward when you invite your clients to receive care virtually.