If you’re a therapist in 2023, it’s likely that you’ve considered offering online services to clients, or you’ve already started. If you’re hesitant to make the move, it’s worth noting that a study comparing in-person sessions to telehealth confirmed 96% of clients were satisfied with online sessions.
Online therapy offers benefits not only for clients but for therapists too. For clients, it becomes much easier to access services without limitations related to transport. For therapists, overhead costs can be significantly reduced while enjoying a more flexible schedule. Online sessions also help to reduce late arrivals and no-shows, as clients don’t have to be in one specific location for the session.
Whether you’re considering moving your practice online partially or entirely, here are seven steps to help you successfully shift to online therapy.
How To Start an Online Therapy Practice
While moving a practice online may seem simple, there are several things you should know and prepare for in advance.
Conduct Research and Develop a Business Plan
Establishing and growing an online therapy practice starts with a business plan. It should detail how you want to run the practice and grow it in the future. A business plan will provide you with metrics to monitor your progress and help you learn from your mistakes.
If you’re starting an online practice from scratch, your business plan will look different from someone with an established practice who’s looking to add online services.
Develop Telehealth Policies and Procedures
After completing your business plan, create a telehealth policy to ensure the smooth execution of virtual sessions and to help you onboard clients making use of telehealth for the first time:
- As a therapist, ensure measures are in place to prevent interruptions during the session and in the event that connection issues develop.
- You should also guide your clients on how to use the telehealth service, explain the reason for conducting online sessions, obtain their consent for conducting online sessions, and communicate procedures for payment.
When you use Power Diary, you get access to a free Practice Operations Manual that includes a telehealth policy you can configure for your practice.
Choose the Right Telehealth Platform
Choose telehealth software fit for clinical consultation purposes. One of the easiest ways to ensure secure and reliable functionality that clients will find easy to use is to select a platform designed specifically for telehealth sessions.
With Power Diary, you can manage appointments and online bookings, send online forms (including telehealth consent forms), schedule reminders, and conduct secure, in-platform telehealth sessions. It’s a hassle-free experience for your client— simply send them a link they open in their browser, and the session can start!
Develop a Website
If you plan to offer online therapy sessions to clients, having a website will help them to find you in the first place. Not only should the website be designed to function well, but it should also include essential information, like what services you offer, contact details, cost indications, online booking, and more.
If you use Power Diary, you can integrate its online booking functionality directly into your website.
Grow Your Client Base
Building up a client base for telehealth services may mean overcoming objections to moving sessions online. Look for opportunities to talk about telehealth and its benefits directly to clients and in your marketing campaigns. Make sure you can answer the following questions:
- How do the sessions work?
- Which insurance and medical aid providers cover telehealth sessions?
- Which clients will you consider for telehealth sessions? (more on this later)
- Can the same health outcomes be expected?
Develop Relationships with Referral Sources
A powerful, often underrated marketing tool is strong relationships with referral sources. When launching online sessions as a new service, you have the perfect opportunity to send out referral introduction letters explaining how the service works, so other practitioners can confidently refer clients to you. But it doesn’t stop there: once you start receiving referrals, follow up by sending referral feedback letters that keep the client’s physicians up to date.
Qualifying Clients for Telehealth Services
It’s important to understand that telehealth sessions aren’t appropriate for all clients. If a client’s condition isn’t suitable for treatment via telehealth services, or if the client isn’t comfortable using the required technology, conduct in-person sessions or refer the client to a practitioner who can do so.
Extra steps you can take include:
- Confirming a client’s location at the start of a session for licensing purposes.
- Asking a client to hold up an ID or driver’s licence at the start of a session to protect themselves from issues stemming from medical identity theft.
- Gathering information about available emergency services near the client in the event of a crisis.
Promote Your Online Therapy Practice
Now that the fundamentals of taking your practice online are covered, it’s time to promote your business! Let’s talk about your marketing plan.
Create a strategy for marketing your practice to help you make a focused, coordinated, and efficient effort to source sustainable business. Three of your biggest opportunities for creating awareness about your service to secure a steady stream of clients are:
- Establishing and continually growing your referral network.
- Connecting (and staying connected) with clients.
- Using the feedback and data you collect along the way to improve your efforts going forward.
Power Diary has features that make growing an online therapy practice easy. SMS messages and emails are useful tools for maintaining sustained awareness of your service. Plus, the software integrates with MailChimp to make sending newsletters simple. You can also include links to the Client Portal on your website and social media profiles so clients can make online bookings in a few clicks. And in the process, you can record how your clients found you, which is an invaluable way to determine which of your marketing efforts are paying off.
What’s more, Power Diary goes a long way in helping you learn more about your clients and referral sources by putting 11 different client reports at your fingertips. For instance, you can:
- See how you’re doing with client retention.
- Find out which clients are becoming inactive so you can reconnect with them.
- See how many appointments each client made in a given period.
- View a list of clients whose referrals are expiring.
Build, Grow and Promote Your Online Therapy Practice with Power Diary
Power Diary’s practice management software, with its extensive list of features, does a lot of the heavy lifting for you when you take your practice online. And, when you start a free trial, you can start using the telehealth feature right away!