6 Steps to Setting up a Telepractice

By: Blink Session

For most of us, doctor house calls are something we've only seen in movies. By 1980, they only represented 0.6% of doctor-patient interaction.1. Working house-to-house takes up a lot of the work day, meaning less clients are treated. Still today, many speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral therapists are spending half their day on the road. The need for in-person home visits will never completely cease, but telepractice is offering a way to reduce the need for them.

The American Speech and Hearing Association defines Telepractice as: "The application of telecommunications technology to the delivery of speech language pathology and audiology professional services at a distance by linking clinician to client or clinician to clinician for assessment, intervention, and/or consultation."2.

Below, we will look at six steps that will help you in developing a plan to start a telepractice service

Step 1: Determine What Therapy You Can Provide Online.

Most therapists considering telepractice wonder how they are going to take something they've done in person and make it work over video conferencing. First off, a good number of tasks can't be accomplished Online. A FEES study (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing) would certainly require you to be in person, and it's unlikely clients have a $20,000 fiberoptic endoscope in their hall closet. That said, more therapy goals can be accomplish Online than most of us imagine. Whatever type of therapy you offer, write down the types of therapy you could offer with the aid of a good Internet connection, telepractice software, and possibly someone helping the client on the other end.

Step 2: Determine the Setting(s) You Can Serve

If you're a therapist (any kind), you know the role setting plays in your work. Telepractice adds another dimension because each setting has a different history with it. For example, many schools in the U.S. and Canada are comfortable with or have tried tele-speech, but few skilled nursing facilities are even aware of it. Also, how the delivery method (in person or online) is chosen varies by setting. In schools, administrators decide, but in private therapy, the clients or parents themselves choose. Challenges with the former are more likely to arise with the administration, where the latter with individual families.

Step 3: Determine How You Would Acquire Clients in Your Choose Setting(s)

Who would buy or choose your company to provide services in the setting(s) you are targeting? If you're looking to serve schools, learn the ins and outs of who makes these decisions in school and school district. For private telepractitioners, clients or parents often look for therapy on their own, but often are referred by their doctor. There might be three hundred towns in your state that don't have speech pathologists and could use your services, but unless the doctors in those towns know your company, and that telepractice is effective, they won't refer to you. Check out our article: 4 Critical Things to Know Before Starting an Online Service Business. For telepractice effectiveness, check out our article: Is Telehealth and Telepractice Effective?

Step 4: Learn The Tech Basics and Pick the Right Software

Of course we are going to recommend Blink Session, but whatever you choose, make sure everyone in your company involved in your telepractice initiative knows the tech basics. Have them take our quiz: Are You Tech-Ready for Online Therapy?. A little knowledge will go a long way in making you program a success. Also, make sure they are comfortable with doing therapy Online. Companies that equip their therapists with the right software, resources, and training have a lot better chance succeeding offering therapy Online.

Step 5: Develop a Teletherapy Screener Process to Validate Your Telepractice Clients

Therapists have developed amazing scientifically backed ways of evaluating if a person needs and would benefit from therapy. Apply that same approach to whether a client could or should receive therapy Online. Here are a few screener questions you could use:

Do they have a reliable connection of 5mb download and 1mb upload speed?

Do they know that they need to be in a quite place for their tele-sessions sitting up, maybe at a table?

Do they have a good enough computer or quality tablet with a camera and mic?

Have they used Skype, Facetime, or any other video conferencing before?

Companies that screen potential tele-clients have a drastically better chance at succeeding offering services Online.

Step 6: Keep Learning and Innovating

Stagnation must be your enemy. Are CEUs a challenge or fun, or maybe a little of both? Continuing education can be a pesky task to mark of your to-do list, but it can also open your eyes to new ways of helping people. When you're a teletherapist, keep up with changes in tech and how people are using it. Look outside your industry to find creative ideas for using software and electronic resources to help people Online. The same goes for how people are looking to receive your services. Thirty years ago, if your business wasn't in the Yellow Pages, you had no business. The clients of tomorrow might wonder why they have to leave their home to get the therapy they need.

1."The Past, Present, and Future of House Calls", Kao, Helen et al. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine , Volume 25 , Issue 1 , 19 - 34

2.“Telepractice: Overview.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Accessed January 12, 2019. https://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Professional-Issues/Telepractice/.

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