COVID-19 and Your Therapy Practice
How to Care for Yourself, Your Clients, and Your Private Practice
Since its discovery only 3 months ago, it seems as though the only thing capturing more attention than the upcoming election is the hysteria surrounding the novel coronavirus.
Our televisions, computers, and even our cell phones are regularly providing us with even the most minor updates; serving as a constant reminder of how much is still unknown about this global challenge.
And while the level of mystery surrounding this new virus can certainly be unsettling, there are things we do know about COVID-19 that can help keep you and your business safe.
With that in mind, it’s important to make sure you’re taking the proper precautions to ensure the safety of your practice, your employees, your clients, and yourself.
In this article, we’ll briefly explain what we know about the novel coronavirus at this time. Then we’ll outline 5 steps you can start taking today to make your practice and everyone who interacts with it as safe as possible.
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What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the name for the novel (new) coronavirus disease that begun affecting humans in 2019.
COVID-19 is the name of the disease that is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, 2nd Strain).
ABC Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Jen Ashton, tells us 80% of people who are known to be infected have shown mild respiratory symptoms – fever, cough, and shortness of breath – and as of Sunday, March 8 the number of confirmed U.S. cases of coronavirus has risen to more than 550, including 22 deaths.
As a therapist, you’re very good at talking with people and diffusing situations. Because these numbers can elicit fear in your community, take this opportunity to address your clients’ concerns and help manage their anxiety.
But how can you do this and maintain a healthy, full-functioning private practice?
5 Steps You Can Take Today for a Healthy Practice
1. Keep yourself informed
First and foremost, make sure you stay up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 updates by following credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).
2. Stop the spread of germs within your office
The CDC has been instructing the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus through proper hand-washing and respiratory hygiene. In addition to the obvious – washing your hands, not touching your face, maintaining social distance, and covering your cough – you also want to be sure you’re making it as easy as possible for others in your office to do the same.
Do everything you can to ensure all employees are also practicing the same healthy habits by providing them with tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, and disposable towels. Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces, such as desks & chairs, keyboards & mice, tabletops, and doorknobs.
Communicate with your staff to promote the message that anyone with symptoms of a respiratory virus of any kind has your full support to stay home from work. If you feel the need, hang a poster like this one from the CDC in prominent places within your office:
3. Prepare your practice for the worst, without expecting worst
Let’s face it, the novel coronavirus could play out one of two ways: it could either disappear like smallpox or it could stick around like influenza. In case of the latter, it’s a good idea to develop a business continuity plan for your therapy practice.
In a simple text document, outline the most essential job functions to keep your practice running. Then, cross-train as many of these jobs as possible so that there’s more than one person in your office who can perform each of those essential tasks. This way, other members of your staff can help fill in for employees who may need to be absent for an extended period of time.
4. Stay in touch with your clients
Whether you’re posting to your website’s blog, sharing to social media, or emailing a newsletter, make sure you’re staying in communication with your clients.
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Let your clients know that your office is still operating as usual, or if any changes occur in your regular operating schedule. Put their minds at ease by explaining the measures you’re taking to make sure your practice is as safe as possible for them to continue coming in for their regular sessions.
You could also provide them with helpful information on how to manage various mental health responses they may currently be experiencing. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has created the following flyer on coping with coronavirus-caused stress:
No matter how you do it, you definitely want to make sure you’re keeping the lines of communication open between you and your clients. Whether it be in person or by an alternate means of communication, they shouldn’t have any doubts that you’re not going to be ready and able to help them, should the need arise.
Which brings us to our last tip…
5. Move things online
If you haven’t already hopped on board the telehealth train, now is the time!
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, many people have quarantined themselves inside their homes. Whether they’re doing this by doctor recommendation, by law, or by their own choice, they’re likely all feeling the same thing – fear. These are the people that will likely need your help and guidance the most. So, giving them the option to receive therapy from the comfort of their own home is the perfect solution.
By supplementing your regular in-office sessions with online therapy sessions, you’re not only able to continue seeing clients that no longer feel safe leaving the house, but you’re also opening yourself up to a wide range of potential new clients that may have been interested in your services but just lived too far away or couldn’t travel to your office for other reasons such as a physical disability or family-care situation. There’s even evidence showing fewer no-shows and cancellations online therapy sessions than traditional in-office therapy.
If you do choose to add ‘Online Therapy’ to your list of services, though, it’s very important you choose the right platform from which to host these sessions. Do some research and make sure the video conferencing system you’re going to be using is HIPAA-compliant. Hint: Skype and FaceTime are not HIPAA-compliant options.
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 – Get $10 off a month for 12 months with coupon code: BVdiscount
- TheraNest – Get 20% off your first 3 months when you sign up here
If you’re still wondering whether telehealth is a good choice for your practice, check out our article on busting 6 myths about offering online therapy.
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There’s no better time than the present to be preparing for COVID-19. Take simple precautions, do a little planning, and it can make a big difference in the future of your practice’s success. Taking action against COVID-19 today will only serve to protect yourself, your clients, and your private practice in the future.
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