How to Move Your Practice Entirely Online
Well, here we are. Smack dab in the middle of a real-life pandemic.
With all the different concerns about Coronavirus floating around, there are many obvious reasons why your own clients may feel the need to cancel their appointments for on-site therapy:
- While they may not be displaying the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, fatigue) they may be feeling a little under the weather and are taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and others.
- They may be healthy but afraid of going out in public and coming into contact with other sick individuals.
- They may be caring for children that have been forced to stay home from school as a measure to prevent the spread.
- They may be caring for other loved ones who are sick at home.
Whatever the reason may be, when your clients cancel their appointments, or simply just don’t show up, it’s important to remember what their reasoning for that may be.
Luckily, there’s a solution that allows your clients to keep their scheduled sessions while staying in the comfort and safety of their own homes – Telehealth.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through the 5 most important steps to follow if you’re ready to move your therapy practice online.
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5 Steps to Switch Over to a Teletherapy (Online Therapy) Practice
Step 1. Know Your Boundaries
Your state’s boundaries, that is. That’s because every state and licensure have their own laws about online therapy. You worked hard for your license and you definitely want to ensure you’re complying with the laws so you don’t risk losing it.
In some states, you may be required to obtain a specific certification or training to provide teletherapy services. For example, therapists in Texas and Kentucky are required to complete a 15-hour training on Technology-Assisted Services before they’re allowed to add online therapy to their list of services.
Most states will allow you to provide teletherapy services to anyone living in the state you’re licensed in. So, if you’re licensed to practice in Oklahoma, you’re only able to provide online therapy to Oklahoma residents – sorry, Kansas.
There will be exceptions to this, however, and you should check with your own state licensing board to be aware of your own limitations. To contact any state board, visit the ASPPB website.
Step 2. Find the Right Teletherapy Platform
As the demand for online therapy grows, so does the number of options available for therapists to choose from. Sure, some have really flashy features that set them apart from the rest like “fully customizable virtual waiting rooms” or “custom playback music while connecting” and it’s okay to get caught up in the fun of it all, as long as you remember one very important thing…
Above all else, you must choose an online therapy platform that is HIPAA-compliant so that your client’s privacy is protected. This means you will receive a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) from the provider (Hint: no matter how much you wish they were, Skype and FaceTime are not HIPAA-compliant).
Here are some of our top telehealth picks that are HIPAA-compliant (and some great deals to go along with them):
- Counsol – Get $5 off your monthly subscription with coupon code: brightervision
- Doxy.me – Check out their free plan here, or get $10 off a month for 12 months of any paid subscription with coupon code: BVdiscount
- SimplePractice – Get a 2-month free trial when you sign up here
- TheraNest – Get 20% off your first 3 months when you sign up here
Once you’ve chosen the right platform, getting started is fairly simple. The only hardware you’ll need is a laptop or smartphone with built-in video and sound capabilities. You can also use a computer that doesn’t have these features built-in by purchasing a webcam and a headset with a microphone. The software requirements may vary from one platform to another, so make sure you understand each of their specific requirements before making your final decision.
**Important Update: Since being deemed a nationwide public health emergency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has now issued a statement saying that healthcare providers may temporarily use any technology available to provide telehealth services during COVID-19, whether it is HIPAA-compliant or not:
It is important to remember that this will only be temporary and we highly recommend finding a HIPAA-compliant solution if you plan to provide teletherapy services long-term.
Step 3. Notify Your Clients
Once you’re familiar with the legal requirements and you’ve chosen a HIPAA-compliant video conferencing platform, it’s time to get the word out!
There are many ways that you can do this…
- You can place a notice on both sides (inside and outside) of your main office door as well as any other inner-office doors such as those leading to a waiting room, counseling room, restroom, etc.
- If you don’t have many opportunities to place these notices on doors, consider using the prime real estate at your reception desk or simply hang them on the walls.
- If you have an email list, send out an announcement by email. In your email blast, list the reasons you’re making this change, the benefits of online therapy (especially in the wake of COVID-19).
- Write an article on why you’ve chosen to make the switch to teletherapy and post it to your website’s blog.
- Use social media to spread the word with social posts. You can also share a link to your blog post about why you’ve made the choice to switch to online therapy.
Step 4. Update Your Website & Online Directory Listings
Most mental health professionals are listed on at least one or two online directories and, if you’re one of them, you know the advertising power of those listings.
Don’t forget to log in and update those listings to include Teletherapy or Online Therapy in the list of services you provide. The faster you do this, the more likely you are to get calls from people searching online for teletherapy near them.
It’s also very important to create a new specialty service page on your private practice website. If you need help with this, check out our post on How to Write Specialty Page Content That Converts.
Adding this new service to both your therapist website and any online directory listings will give you the SEO (search engine optimization) boost you need to get those calls.
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Step 5. Market Yourself
Don’t skip this section just yet!
Teletherapy is one of the most difficult markets to rank for on search engines, even if you’re not in an already-saturated city.
But marketing yourself online doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money on ads. What it does mean is you’ll have to spend some time letting people know online that you’re available for online therapy. There are many other ways to inform people of changes in your practice that cost no money in online ads.
In addition to the notification methods mentioned in step 3 above, here are a few more ideas to consider to market your practice and your online therapy services without spending a dime:
- Make yourself available for media interviews with local news & media outlets. Share your experience, your niche, and tell viewers/listeners why you’re uniquely qualified to help them with online therapy. Considering how much news coverage COVID-19 is getting combined with how frequently the public is getting major updates, local media will likely be extremely interested in this positive human-interest spin on the story.
- Keep networking with other counselors, social workers, doctors, etc. While the number of conferences and other public gatherings is dwindling by the day, you can still make sure you’re staying in contact with others in related fields within your area. This is especially important for those who specialize in situational stress or health-related anxiety. With the number of people visiting primary care physicians growing by the day, this is the perfect opportunity to make sure they’re recommending you when they’re asked if they know of someone they could talk to. A little apprehensive to visit their office? Connect with them on LinkedIn!
- Start guest blogging to increase your audience reach and further brand yourself as an expert in your field.
- Sign up for CounselChat and answer questions from real people in your area. This not only helps the user who asked the question in the first place, but it also contributes to your overall credibility in your niche which helps improve your relevance. The more answers you provide that visitors deem “helpful”, the more visible you become on their site and hence, the more referrals you’ll gain from them. And referral traffic from links on a trusted site like this will definitely improve your ranking on search results pages!
For more information on marketing your teletherapy practice, check out our webinar on How to Successfully Market Your TelePractice Online with Ray Barrett from Telehealth Certification Institute.
Things may seem dark right now but we have a Brighter Vision in store for the future of private practices.
Don’t let cancellations and no-show appointments hurt your income. Start offering teletherapy (online therapy) in your practice today.
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