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9 Tips for Psychologists to Successfully Implement Telehealth

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Check out telehealth best practices to extend your patient reach and increase your psychology practice’s revenue.

As more psychologists provide virtual therapy to patients, telemedicine is becoming a great alternative to — and often a substitute for — traditional in-person appointments. Teletherapy helps overcome distance, eliminating geographical boundaries to healthcare as well as time constraints. Special software for psychologists provides video conferencing, patient management, chat rooms, and other functionality for constantly communicating with patients and improving their mental health.

In this article, we dig deep into successful telehealth implementations and unveil nine practical tips to provide effective and high-quality teletherapy appointments. 

Find the right software

The technical side of telepsychology plays a significant role when it comes to patient satisfaction with telehealth therapy and its long-term success. According to a study published in the Journal of Patient Experience, the quality of a patient’s and provider’s internet connection and the quality of telemedicine software influence overall patient satisfaction.

For successful therapy sessions, your software for psychologists should be HIPAA-compliant for secure patient care, intuitive in design and use, and independent of third-party tools and programs. Here are more details on the basic requirements:

  • Choose software for your therapy practice that supports encryption and complies with HIPAA telehealth security requirements. 
  • Write a list of the required functionality for your practice type, such as chat, automated reminders, billing management, booking, etc., and opt for a telehealth platform that matches your needs.
  • Look for a trusted technology provider that will help you save money and automate as many tasks as possible to let you concentrate on patient care. 

Follow teletherapy laws and regulations 

Laws and policies for teletherapy vary across US states. Before starting to offer telehealth services, you must know which legislation applies to your practice and what licensing to obtain. For example, some states grant guest licenses for up to 30 days a year, facilitating the process of offering telehealth services for mental health specialists.

You can also obtain a temporary license to practice teletherapy in other states by getting an Interjurisdictional Practice Certificate (IPC). 

Using secure and reliable telemedicine software with end-to-end data encryption and strong authentication, such as ExpertBox, allows psychologists to avoid security and legal issues and provide teletherapy services in compliance with the HIPAA privacy rule.

Organise your workspace

After ensuring you comply with legal requirements, you should prepare your workspace to provide professional online sessions. To get started, take the following steps:

  • Ensure your equipment is set up and works properly.
  • Confirm your hardware operates appropriately together with your software.
  • Check your internet connection speed to avoid interruptions and lag during video conferencing.
  • Adjust your camera, microphone, and lighting.

Also, you need to set up your personal work environment to keep the professional look and feel of face-to-face appointments. This may include setting up:

  • A comfortable table
  • An adjustable office chair 
  • A computer or laptop with a good battery
  • A headset with excellent sound
  • Office assets and organizers
  • Blinds for light control
  • Additional lamps

Make a checklist for your perfect ‘webside’ manner

Try to step into your patients’ shoes and envision the therapy session from your patients’ perspective. Webside manner encompasses everything from your clothing to hand gestures and lighting while on camera. Check out our tips on how to behave before, during, and after the appointment.

Before you start the therapy session

  • Set your work availability using your telemedicine software’s automated scheduler.
  • Get patient informed consent and ensure patients know and agree to all teletherapy policies and rules.
  • Obtain required information about a patient before the session using online intake forms.
  • Prepare your workspace and test your technology and internet bandwidth.

During the session

  • Verbalise your activities, especially if you’re doing or searching for something offscreen, to make your patient feel at ease.
  • Communicate clearly, taking reasonable short pauses.
  • Maintain a professional dress code and eye contact.
  • Inform the patient what to do if the connection is lost or interrupted.
  • Ask whether the patient has concerns or questions and get their feedback.

At the end of the session

  • Ensure your patient knows the further steps and is satisfied with the teletherapy outcomes.

Prepare your patients for teletherapy

Psychologists need to make their patients feel relaxed during therapy sessions and eliminate behavioural and technological barriers. Let’s analyse what you can do to ensure your patients’ comfort during virtual appointments:

  • Obtain informed consent and clarify patients’ rights and expectations for online therapy.
  • Explain how patients can agree to and refuse online therapy.
  • Discuss the privacy aspects on the patients’ side, such as not disclosing sensitive information to third parties and being in a secure, private space.
  • Lastly, educate your patients about telemedicine solutions and their benefits through sending emails, posting relevant content on social media and your personal blog, or providing educational live streaming.

Adjust your existing practice management workflow

Therapists should apply a patient management workflow to fit patients’ needs. All-in-one teletherapy solutions often provide patient management functionality to build an optimal workflow. 

  • Automated patient booking and scheduling. Patients can book a free time slot on the therapist’s calendar through a booking widget or shared link, reschedule, or cancel an appointment per the appointment cancellation rules set by the therapist.
  • Availability check. This helps patients keep up to date with changes in therapists’ working hours if they need to reschedule an appointment. 
  • Dashboard. This functionality allows psychologists to store and access patients’ information and manage therapy progress.
  • Online billing. The payment feature lets patients pay for their online appointments once they book a session with a therapist using the most convenient payment method.

It’s reasonable to use teletherapy solutions that integrate video conferencing and patient management. By choosing ExpertBox, you won’t ever worry about a lack of synchronization or issues with patient data privacy.

Ensure smooth online billing

To ensure your teletherapy practice payment management goes smoothly for you and your patients, you need to know how you can be reimbursed for online therapy and protect yourself from last-minute cancellations and missed appointments.

Start with learning what billing and reimbursement rules and regulations applicable to your specific services. Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) and Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes are used for reimbursing telebehavioural services. They contain updates to the 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS). Note that although some services are permanently reimbursable, the list also includes temporarily covered services due to the COVID-19 public health emergency and may change.

Additionally, you should provide your patients with billing procedures and policies for each service, including pricing options. Teletherapy software solutions such as ExpertBox include HIPAA-compliant online billing, allowing for an easy and convenient payment by patients. 

Prepare teletherapy policies and documentation

Before providing telepsychology services, you should have carefully written policies in place explaining patients’ telehealth rights and responsibilities. Look at what documentation you may require to start your therapy practice:

  • Telehealth consent form. This form is used to obtain official patient permission to provide online therapy.
  • HIPAA compliance notice. A HIPAA notice confirms that patients will face no privacy and security risks while using HIPAA-compliant telemedicine software.
  • Patient authorization to use, store, and share electronic health information. This grants you official approval from patients to work with their ePHI for healthcare and billing purposes and specifies whether a therapist can reveal any part of ePHI to third parties. 
  • Group therapy informed consent (if you plan to provide group therapy). 
  • Termination agreement. This document outlines the terms on which the provision of services can be terminated. You can address no-show, payment, and refund policies in this agreement. 

Think of ways to market your therapy services 

Consider preparing your marketing strategy in advance. For this, use these steps to effectively and continuously promote your teletherapy practice: 

  • Choose your niche and specify to whom you provide teletherapy services.
  • Learn your target audience and build an ideal patient profile to understand patients’ desires and concerns.
  • Master your brand strategy to get the word out about your telepsychology practice.
  • Design a professional website with the correct number of pages, colour palette, and relevant content.
  • Showcase your expertise and network with other industry specialists to stay up to date on the latest healthcare trends.

Bottom line

Successful online therapy requires in-depth preparation. By following our tips and choosing the right private practice software, you can create a workflow that perfectly aligns with your own and your clients’ needs and lets you focus on patient care and counselling.

Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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