Remote work is a thing we’ve all become very familiar with within the age of COVID. However, working remotely as a therapist or psychiatrist can present a unique set of challenges. From ensuring you have the proper telemedicine technology, abiding by all HIPAA regulations in a virtual setting, and maintaining a personal connection with your clients, therapists working remotely have a lot to consider when treating patients and running their practice remotely.
Valant understands this challenge well and has created this list of tools for therapists and other mental health providers to act as a guide for those working remotely in 2020 and beyond.
Benefits of Working Remotely as a Therapist / Mental Health Provider
While there are challenges working remotely as a therapist presents, there are some benefits as well. For example, being able to treat a wider range of patients not relegated to one geographic region can be a huge advantage for your business. You are able to reach a much wider network and provide care to people across the state you practice in, or even across the country.
You also may save on overhead costs, such as rent, utilities, office amenities, and even staffing. Additional cost savings come from cutting out your commute; without having to commute to work, you will save time and gas money, and you will have a bit more control over your schedule, which can allow you greater work-life balance.
Challenges of Working Remotely as a Therapist / Mental Health Provider
It is also important to identify the challenges you are facing working remotely as a therapist. Once you have a good understanding of the challenges, the better you are able to solve them.
Challenges such as missing interpersonal cues you would normally pick up on in an in-person therapy session can really impact the level of care you are able to provide for your patients. Working from home there are also more chances for interruptions; family members, pets, and even the neighbor’s leaf blower can all cause distractions and some of which you don’t have any control over.
Technology and connectivity issues can also be a challenge on either end of the session, and there is a higher level of difficulty to maintain privacy, confidentiality, and, of course, HIPAA compliance.
Essential Tools for Therapists Working Remotely
Once you know the challenges you are facing, the next step is to find solutions.
These 9 tools for therapists and other mental health providers working remotely can help greatly improve the effectiveness and productivity of your practice and hopefully lighten those challenges a bit.
1. HIPAA-Compliant Telehealth Software
First and foremost, you need to make sure you are complying with HIPAA in your practice. Finding the right telehealth software should be the first action item on your list when you transition to seeing patients remotely. Companies like Valant can provide you with HIPAA-compliant telehealth software seamlessly integrated into your EHR. Do your research and choose a software that will work for you and your practice.
2. E-signature Software
Once you have your telehealth software selected, you will want to make sure you have a secure way to get your patients’ signatures. Not only will having e-signature capabilities in place help streamline your intake process for your virtual sessions, but it will also help improve the security of your practice by providing encryption for documents and allowing you to confidently adhere to HIPAA regulations.
3. Electronic Health Record (EHR)
Electronic Health Records (EHR) can assist you in decreasing or eliminating the use of paper records, notes, and patient charts within your practice. This is especially beneficial with remote work allowing you to edit your notes and files from home, accept secure payments online, and, if you have multiple providers in your practice, easily share notes and patient information. A good EHR will become the backbone of your practice ensuring you are spending more time with patients and less in your charts.
For additional guidance, see “Navigating the EHR Shopping Process.”
4. Computer & Tablet
Having a reliable computer or tablet is essential for remote therapy sessions. In order to run your telehealth software, manage communications, and set up video conferencing, ensure your computer and tablet or reliable and all operating systems up-to-date.
Webcams are essential for any video conferencing sessions. While therapy sessions can occasionally be done over the phone, having interactions over video can help both parties pick up social cues and nuances which may be otherwise missed.
6. Noise Machine
A good noise machine can help prevent sensitive conversations from being overheard. When strategically placed, they can help sessions remain private as well as provide calming sounds such as the ocean, rain, or just a soothing white noise to drown out other external distractions.
7. Headphones/ Earbuds
Another way to help protect your patients’ privacy is to utilize headphones. Headphones are not only a great way to hear clearer, but headphones with a mic can also help you be heard more clearly by others. When communication is all virtual, it’s important to use all tools at your disposal to ensure clarity and understanding.
8. Proper Workstation Items
How you set up and, yes, even decorate, your home office space can make a big difference in your efficiency, communication, and your own health.
Create your virtual home office with many of the same considerations you would in a clinic setting. Having an ergonomic chair and workstation setup will help you stay comfortable and avoid unnecessary strains on your neck, back, hips, and wrists. Also, consider your surroundings, like your personal items that can be seen on camera, the lighting, plant life, and where you store any confidential information.
9. Ring Light
When you are communicating in front of a camera, having your face lit well is important for building trust and comfort among your viewers. A decent ring light will ensure you are well lit. They are very affordable to purchase and can make a pretty big difference in how you appear.
Working Remotely as a Mental Health Provider
No matter the global climate, telemedicine is here to stay. The right tools and systems can ensure both behavioral health providers and their clients are getting the most out of a telehealth experience.
There are a lot of expensive and complicated options available, but you don’t need much to get started. If you are working with patients remotely and are in need of a secure telehealth platform to connect with your patients remotely, as well as a platform to assist in scheduling, reporting, billing, and more consider exploring Valant’s HIPAA-compliant, fully integrated EHR for behavioral health. Get a Personalized Demo of Valant’s EHR Software.