For Psychotherapists and Psychologists in private practice, one of the most common issues is not having enough time. Whether it is inputting patient notes, calling back new potential patients, resolving insurance claims (everybody’s favorite….), or calling back patients to reschedule sessions, time is limited. Furthermore, most Psychotherapists and Psychologists are a one person business and things in your business can quickly become overwhelming.
Enter the idea of a Virtual Assistant.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant is a person who provides support services from a remote location.
Since many mental health clinicians do not have a full office with a reception desk, the idea of a remote virtual assistant that can complete tasks is appealing.
What kinds of tasks can a Virtual Assistant complete for me?
- Calling back no show or cancelled patients to reschedule
- Screening new client calls
- Resolving billing and insurance claims
- Inputting session notes into your EHR software
What qualities and skills to look for in a Virtual Assistant?
Some important qualities for a potential Virtual Assistant especially in the mental health industry are compassion and empathy. If your Virtual Assistant is helping your private practice with phone screening and rescheduling patients, being able to listen compassionately to patients that are going through difficult issues is extremely important.
As for skills you will want to find somebody that is communicative and organized. I cannot stress the importance of the ability to stay organized for the assistant. If they are not able to keep to a system to call back and follow up with patients (since many patients will not pick up the first time) it will be very difficult to be able to help the private practice and make sure your session calendar is booked.
If you want your virtual assistant to resolve insurance claims, the skills of persistence and research is important as well. Some claims require a lot of detective work to figure out who to call and to understand what happened to the claim to make sure the clinician and/or the patient gets their reimbursement.
How do I protect my business in terms of HIPAA and confidentiality when hiring a Virtual Assistant?
There are a few ways to protect your business:
- The conversation between you and the virtual assistant needs to be on a HIPAA compliant website or app when discussing patient information. I recommend OhMD.com which has both a website and phone app you can download for free. You can create an account and then invite the virtual assistant to download and sign up for the platform as well. OhMD is a HIPAA compliant texting tool.
- You can have your virtual assistant sign a Business Associate Agreement which is a document binding the assistant to confidentiality requirements.
- If you utilize EHR software like simplepractice.com clinicians can create a user profile that has limited privacy access for a virtual assistant. You can also securely communicate between clinician and assistant directly on the platform by sending secure messages to each other.
After witnessing many clinicians who have hired virtual assistants, one of the hardest things for the clinician to do is to let go of control. As business owners we all want to have a level of control over our business. That being said letting go of control and hiring a trustworthy virtual assistant can alleviate stress, overwhelm, compassion fatigue and allow time for clinicians to spend time doing the things that matter most in their business and life.