The waiting room is full, appointments are stacking up, and your phone is constantly buzzing with calls and emails. Your dream of running a thriving practice has become a reality, but there’s one problem: time is in short supply, and taking time off for lunch has become a luxury.
For many practitioners, this is the moment they consider hiring extra help.
Virtual Assistants (VAs) have emerged as a popular option due to their flexibility and cost-saving potential. But if you’re new to the world of VAs, you’ve probably got a lot of questions.
How do you find a service that aligns with your needs? Should you opt for a VA service from a different country or one closer to home? And what about the cost? Finding the right fit can feel daunting, especially when time is at a premium.
This article is based on a webinar hosted by Damien Adler, co-founder of Power Diary and Head of Customer Success, and Kim Simmons. Kim is the founder of Virtually Irreplaceable, a Virtual Assistant service for therapists based in the UK. Kim has worked with therapists in private practice for over 7 years and, in that time, has developed a reliable method for running private practices. She believes that having the right systems and processes will ensure that your private practice is professional.
If you’re considering working with a VA, get a cup of coffee and keep reading.
The article will cover when to work with a Virtual Assistant, what to look for in a VA service, best practices for working with a Virtual Assistant, and tasks they can take off your plate.
What is a Virtual Assistant in Healthcare?
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an external employee or contractor, often working remotely, to whom you can delegate routine business tasks.
These tasks can range from telephone answering and appointment booking to processing invoices, transcribing letters, managing waiting lists, and more. VAs possess a diverse skill set and can even handle tasks like managing social media comments and updating websites.
You can choose to work with individual freelancers or opt for VA services provided by larger companies.
What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?
VAs take on routine tasks you may find time-consuming, offering a flexible, cost-effective solution without the expense of taking on an employee.
The key advantage is that a VA can often be more cost-effective than attempting to manage everything yourself. For instance, a practitioner who outsources appointment booking to a VA may gain extra time for additional client sessions, which can more than compensate for the VA’s cost.
When to Work with a Virtual Assistant
Are you feeling overwhelmed in your healthcare practice? It might be the right time to consider working with a Virtual Assistant (VA).
Here are some signs that indicate a VA could be beneficial:
- Financial chaos: If you struggle to manage finances, from payments to medical insurance, a VA can help bring order to your financial processes.
- Client retention issues: Losing clients due to customer service complaints or a lack of follow-up outside of sessions? A VA can enhance client support and make payment processes more convenient.
- Work-life balance: If your practice is taking over your personal life and leading to burnout, a VA can lighten the workload and help you regain work-life balance.
New to Private Practice?
Starting a private practice can be overwhelming, especially without business training.
You can save yourself wasted time and energy in the early stages by:
- Signing up for business courses: Consider enrolling in business courses to gain the necessary knowledge. Government-sponsored courses may even be available.
- Creating Standard Operating Procedures: Collaborate with specialists to create SOPs for your practice, such as appointment booking and reminders. Having processes in place from the beginning streamlines your operations.
- Opt for VAs early on: Consider bringing in a VA from the start. This allows you to handle calls efficiently, freeing up time to see more clients and assess the opportunity cost of managing admin tasks yourself.
Working with a VA early in your practice enables you to establish standard processes, ensuring clarity and efficiency. VAs often bring insights from other practices that can benefit your business.
What to Look for in a Virtual Assistant Service
Selecting the right VA service is crucial. Here are some factors to consider
- Confidentiality: Ensure the VA service is experienced in handling healthcare clients and understands the industry’s confidentiality requirements. Look for credentials like ICO membership in the UK, and an understanding of what systems (like Power Diary) need to be in place.
- Familiarity with your practice management system: Opt for a VA who specialises in the systems you use. Their understanding of your system’s features can improve your efficiency over time.
- Location: While VAs work remotely, choosing one within a few hours of your time zone can increase working hours overlap for maximum efficiency.
The key to finding the ideal VA service is assessing your needs and values. Look for a service that can seamlessly align with your existing practices, from phone etiquette to handling notes. Establish trust with your VA, starting with small tasks and gradually expanding their role. Don’t hesitate to inquire about their ethos and values to ensure they match your own.
And then there are your clients’ needs to consider as well. If your practice requires a personal touch when clients call, find a VA service that can maintain consistency and familiarity.
Tasks a Virtual Assistant Can Take off Your Plate
VAs can handle a wide range of tasks, including:
- Client Communication: Managing all client communication, especially for appointments with more than 24 hours’ notice.
- Invoicing: Handling invoice-related tasks, including answering questions, reconciling payments, and setting up invoicing processes for timely payments.
- Bookkeeping: Managing incoming and outgoing finances and handling medical insurance invoicing.
- Administrative Tasks: Streamlining client onboarding, inquiries, and offboarding processes.
- Scheduling: Efficiently managing appointments and rescheduling when necessary.
- Report Writing: Assisting with report writing tasks.
And what about those phone calls?
Phone calls can be inefficient, with low information retention by clients. To streamline client interactions and eliminate admin time, consider allowing clients to book discovery calls via your online Client Portal. This saves time, reduces back-and-forth email exchanges, and ensures potential clients don’t continue their search elsewhere.
Best Practices for Working with a Virtual Assistant
If you decide to collaborate with a Virtual Assistant (VA) for your healthcare practice, you’ll benefit from knowing some best practices to ensure a smooth and productive partnership.
Managing Users and Setting Up Accounts
When onboarding a VA, it’s crucial to grant them access while maintaining the necessary security measures:
- Correct Access: Provide your VA with the access they need to perform their tasks efficiently. However, be prepared to restrict access to clinical notes or sensitive information if necessary.
- Client-Level Access: Depending on your practice management system, you may have the option to restrict access at the client level, ensuring that VAs only access relevant information.
Client Comfort with Virtual Assistants
It’s natural to wonder if your clients will feel comfortable interacting with a VA instead of you, the practitioner.
Here’s what you should keep in mind:
- Client contact: Clients are generally comfortable contacting a VA for administrative or non-clinical inquiries. They understand that VAs are there to assist and streamline processes.
- Preserving relationships: Having a VA can create a beneficial barrier between you and clients when it comes to matters like finances. This separation helps maintain a professional client-practitioner relationship.
- Reducing unnecessary communication: VAs can handle many client interactions, reducing the need for outside-of-appointment communication. This ensures that your time is spent effectively on client care.
Should I Bring My Admin In-House?
The decision to bring admin tasks in-house or continue with a VA service depends on multiple factors.
Here are some considerations:
- Value for Time Spent: Assess whether the time you save by working with a VA justifies the cost. For many practitioners, the efficiency gained outweighs the expense.
- Hourly Rates: Keep in mind that outsourcing to a VA may come with a higher hourly rate compared to hiring an in-house admin assistant, so it may become more cost-effective to take your admin in-house as you grow.
- VA Agency Benefits: When partnering with a VA agency, you’ll benefit from having a lead account manager. Even when they’re on holiday, the agency will have a substitute to cover, ensuring continuity.
- Scalability: VA services can scale with the growth of your practice.
The choice between hiring a VA or in-house staff depends on factors like workload, work hours, HR management capacity, training time, physical space, and scalability. A VA offers flexibility in the early stages of business growth. However, as your practice grows, in-house staff may become more cost-effective.
Some practices benefit from a combination of in-house and virtual support, with each contributing to specific tasks and functions.
Still deciding whether to go with a VA or an in-house admin team member? This article on the advantages and disadvantages might help you decide: Virtual Reception Service: Pros and Cons.
Incorporating a Virtual Assistant into your healthcare practice can bring a number of benefits, from improving efficiency and client satisfaction to regaining work-life balance. By carefully assessing your needs and choosing the right VA service, you can enhance your practice’s operations and focus on what matters most – caring for your clients.
And if you have questions for Kim from Virtually Irreplaceable, she’d love to hear from you. Kim offers Power Diary users a free consultation and a 10% discount on Virtual Assistant services. Just mention Power Diary when booking.