As the world is facing many challenges due to the outbreak of COVID-19, businesses across the world are being forced to close their storefronts. For healthcare workers, closing doors means disrupting client care — care that is essential to the wellbeing of their clients. The impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented and its impact is being felt around the world, as millions of wellness practitioners struggle to find ways to maintain client care. Now more than ever, businesses are exploring telehealth and transitioning in-person care virtually.
While telehealth provides a solution to continued care, working remotely from home may come with some challenges. In this guide, we’re sharing tips to getting used to working from home for newly remote wellness practitioners. Learn how to adapt your wellness business, workflows, and counseling style with these work from home tips.
1. Establish virtual office policies and communicate these with clients
Just as utilizing telehealth may be new for your business, it is likely to also be new for many of your clients. Helping wellness clients to adjust to technology and expectations of telehealth is an important first step. Consider sending an email to clients to communicate how you will be working together virtually. Within this communication, you can share your new policies for virtual appointments, such as an updated cancellation policy, rules for between-appointment contact, and any changes in billing procedures.
Attach an informed telehealth consent form for clients to sign as well. While getting a patient’s consent for telehealth visits may not be a requirement in your state, you may still want to consider having your clients fill out a telehealth informed consent form regardless of the regulations.
Also, include resources on the new technology you will be using to communicate with your clients. Ensuring your clients feel comfortable with virtual healthcare will ensure they continue to make appointments with you, which will help build a strong provider-client relationship as well as lead them towards achieving their wellness goals.
Tip: If you are using Healthie, we have a telehealth FAQ guide you can download here and send to your clients.
2. Adapt your counseling style for virtual sessions
In-person wellness counseling appointments have an extra touch of connection and communication, so it can feel difficult to maintain the same level of human interaction in a video chat. You may find that your counseling style needs to adapt because your environment has changed.
Here are some strategies for how to create a strong provider-client rapport using technology:
Have the camera on for your session
Even though appointments won’t be in person, keeping the camera on so you and your client can meet “face-to-face” is important for creating trust. You are able to pick up on the non-verbal cues, such as body language and eye contact that are present during in-person sessions but would be missing for a phone session.
Show that you’re engaged during a virtual session
Active listening, empathy, and other counseling skills may not be communicated as well during a virtual session. Be sure to work on bettering these skills so they are strong, and your client sees that you are actively engaged in the session even though you are “virtual.” If you’re on a phone session, this may require you to actively respond to show that you’re engaged with the conversation.
Eliminate distractions from technology
During virtual wellness sessions, it can be more challenging to limit other virtual work and notifications. Having email, slack, and text notifications appear on your screen can be distracting — but responding to them can be even more disruptive to your session. A good practice is to go through your apps and devices to adjust your notification settings. For example, if you have an iPhone you can make it a habit to flick on the “Do Not Disturb” setting before each call.
3. Create a work from home routine that works for you.
Working from home can make it difficult to establish a routine since there isn’t necessarily a set time the workday starts. However, try to act as though you are heading into an office for in-person care. Set a schedule for meals and breaks, and stick to it, as much as possible.
Having a routine will help increase your productivity and avoid getting distracted with non-work related tasks. Dedicating certain times of the day to appointments, administrative tasks, and “you-time” will ensure that everything gets done. You will also feel more organized, as you are not scrambling to plan out your day each morning. Because you have established your routine, you know how the day will go, when you’ll be most productive, and what needs to get done. It takes 21 days to create a habit, so be sure to stick to your routine for the first few weeks of working remotely to set yourself up for success during your career.
4. Coordinate with your household on when you’ll be working.
Transitioning to remote care can affect your family as much as it changes your own routines. We recommend communicating with your family to establish a routine to let family members know when you’ll be working.
Establishing a cadence early in your transition can make a large difference in setting expectations with your family, and normalizing the fact that you may be home, but unavailable (e.g., have a closed-door), for periods of time throughout the day.
5. Block off time for wellness practice administration activities.
When working virtually, it is critical to block off time for administrative tasks that are integral to the operations of your business. Appointments are easy to check off your list because they are a set commitment to another person. As for your to-do list, make it a commitment to yourself to make sure it gets done. Carving out specific time blocks for tasks like billing, managing insurance claims and paying employees will ensure that your business can continue to run efficiently.
Tip: Within Healthie, you can keep track of your to-do’s with our Tasks feature. Prioritize what needs to get done first, associate certain tasks with clients, and assign to-dos to other members of your organization.
6. Invest in a HIPAA-Compliant EHR and telehealth platform
Staying HIPAA-compliant while transitioning to telehealth is extremely important. Before taking a leap into telehealth appointments, make sure your intended method of communication is HIPAA-compliant. This will ensure your client’s private health information remains secure.
Popular telehealth methods, such as Facetime, Skype, text messages, and many more are not HIPAA-compliant and could leave your client’s private health information vulnerable. You must create a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) with the third-party communication service provider to require that they uphold HIPAA compliance within their own secure system.
Healthie’s EHR and telehealth platform is HIPAA-compliant, and for members, a BAA can be accessed here.
7. Test out your new remote telehealth workflows.
Running through the set-up prior to your first appointment is crucial to your success. You’ll feel more confident before your first telehealth consultation with a client if you hold a test run with a family member or friend beforehand.
When testing out your workflow, here are some important things to think about:
What is the step-by-step process to log into a video chat?
Before your client launches their first virtual session, there may be some steps required of them. It’s important to communicate with them in advance if they need to download any software, utilize a specific internet browser, install an app, or create an account login.
Making these pre-session requirements as clear as possible will set the tone for the smooth initial session.
8. Take time for self-care and schedule breaks.
When you take time for yourself, you will boost your work productivity too. Just like you schedule your clients, manage social media, and keep up with billing, setting aside designated “downtime” is essential to maintain work-life balance and long-lasting business growth.
You’ve likely experienced the near-impossible task of trying to create when you’re running on empty. It is scientifically proven that your focus increases after taking breaks.
How to do it: Block off lunch, snack breaks, and downtime on your calendar. This will ensure that you are mindful of your scheduled time-off and that wellness clients will only be able to schedule sessions with you when available.
9. Know when to “log off”
One of the biggest challenges to working from home, and working virtually with clients, is constantly being “on” or “available.” While your wellness business and client care are of the utmost importance, so is your self-care. You can help create boundaries between your personal life and work-life in a few ways.
First, stick to the availability that you’ve created for yourself. If you’ve set your office hours from 9-5pm, then it’s important to essentially close the computer, and not schedule client calls during your downtime.
Tip: Now, with Healthie’s chat feature, you can set an autoresponse to send to clients when you’re out of office (or just logged off). This way, clients know that you are unable to reply right then, but will get back to them as soon as possible.
You may also find it beneficial to separate your workspace from your personal space, even if you’re living in a small space or apartment. For example, you may want to keep your bedroom as a “no-work” space.
To help set boundaries with clients, make sure that you include your office policies in your intake paperwork. Clarify when you’ll be available, how quickly you’ll respond to client messages, calls, or emails, and when your virtual office is “closed” (ie. the weekends or after 5pm).
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