If you thought your career as a traveling allied health professional couldn’t get any more flexible, think again! Today there are all sorts of profitable new ways to apply your skills in healthcare and therapy thanks to technology. You could be between assignments or even on the road, but either way, you might want to consider starting a telepractice to supplement your income! The convenience and comfortability that telepracticing allied health professionals provide their patients is well worth the consideration alone. Here we’ll provide some top tips for telepractice therapy and what you need to know to get started: tips for telepractice therapy
You probably know better than anyone that traveling healthcare pros are all about finding new ways to reach their career goals and make more money in the process… Well, telepractice therapy is one such way! Commonly just called ’teletherapy,’ this refers to providing behavioral therapy services via telecommunications technology like online video-conference calls. Due to the fact that patients can’t receive physical medical treatments through teletherapy, it’s mostly tailored to mental health or speech-language pathology.
Nonetheless, it’s an incredibly effective way of providing consultation services for patients — just as long as you know how to prepare…
Top Tips for Telepractice Therapy
Since teletherapy is completely reliant on technology, this is obviously the first place to start! In all honesty, teletherapy doesn’t feel too different from face-to-face visits with patients if your devices work as intended.
Now, we’re not saying you have to get Hollywood-grade lighting and cameras, but you do need to think about providing as high-quality of an experience as possible. For someone taking time to focus on their mental health or scheduled SLP session, faulty technology severely limits your ability to provide treatment. To provide effective teletherapy you need:
- A relatively fast, modern computer
- An external webcam (if not built-in to your PC)
- A microphone
Most webcams have built-in microphones, however, I’d strongly suggest buying something of better quality. Your voice and ability to communicate to your patient represent your most important tool when providing teletherapy so good audio goes a long way! A cheap and effective option is to find a pair of headphones with a microphone used for phone calls. This allows you to get closer to the sound source (your voice) while cutting down on noise. Even if you are practicing from a quiet home, the ambient air picked up from a webcam mic can be very distracting to certain patients!
Next, you’ll need to ensure you have a high-speed internet connection to avoid audio and video lagging. Although this isn’t always possible to ensure on the side of your patient, taking care of your own internet can avoid unnecessary headaches.
Find Software for Teletherapy
The next of our tips for telepractice therapy remains incredibly important — only use HIPAA-certified software! Although there is plenty of video streaming software out there, you can’t just download Skype and call it a day. With all of the recent controversy surrounding Facebook data, you can’t take the chance with non-compliant programs.
The information you and your patients exchange during each teletherapy session must be kept safe, secure, and confidential. Really, it’s not so much a tip as it is an absolute necessity! One software we’ve found is eVisit, a platform that provides full-HIPAA compliance and a range of features that can make teletherapy a breeze.
Plan Out Your Teletherapy Space
After all of your software and devices have been synced up and you’ve tested them thoroughly, it’s proper to think about your teletherapy space. Even if you’ve gone with a close-up microphone and high-quality webcam, you need to ensure that you have proper lighting and minimal distractions while streaming your video. Again, you can’t always ensure this on a patient’s end, but it certainly makes a huge difference from your side.
Even if you don’t have an enormous office, setting up the scene behind you to appear calming and inviting is never a bad idea. Clean up those loose papers, tidy up that bookshelf, and throw a few plants in the background and you should be alright! Additionally, it’s best to rely on an electric light source rather than natural ambient light because this can change during a session, causing your camera to adjust its auto brightness. No good!
Practice Your Teletherapy Face!
Although the idea is to provide similar treatment to in-person sessions, that comes down to how comfortable you are in front of a camera. Sometimes seeing and hearing yourself through a webcam and microphone can be a little odd if you’re not used to it. That means you’ll want to practice speaking to patients before you really start digging into telepractice therapy sessions.
While you’re at it, this is also a good opportunity to remember another important aspect of teletherapy and that’s payment and documentation! Sometimes the difference in approach can be confusing to both patients and professionals, so you’ll need to figure out these details before your first sessions. This includes things like:
- Informing patients of their financial responsibilities
- Discussing online payment options for copays, coinsurances or other fees
- Organizing the appropriate health records and having them on hand
Overall, if you keep these tips for telepractice therapy in mind, you’ll be sure to provide patients with convenient and effective sessions! Have any additional advice for allied health pros and traveling therapists? Leave your comments below!