The last couple of years have taught us all a lot…how to stay as safe and healthy as possible, how to purchase more things online than before and, for many businesses including healthcare providers, how to continue to deliver services to customers — in this case, patients — and minimize COVID’s impact on the bottom line.
In fact, providers who don’t need to be hands-on in delivering some services have decided not to return to the office….in some cases, at all.
But how do you accomplish that, when your records are paper-based and your systems are all in your physical office location? It’s almost impossible, really.
To put it into perspective, how have you traditionally taken call after-hours? If you don’t have remote access to all of the data you need — locked inside paper records in your dark office — how can you deliver the most-appropriate medical guidance at 2 a.m.? You know that, regardless of your years of experience, you simply cannot.
The body of medical knowledge (now estimated to be doubling approximately every 73 days), the nuances of so many health plans as to what’s covered and what isn’t, and the often laundry list of medications or treatment plans that many patients are on. It’s too much to store in your brain or even from within a paper chart that’s locked in a filing cabinet. It’s simply too much.
Touchless providers find a virtual practice a virtually flawless choice
Being a totally virtual practice isn’t for everyone, granted. It’s hard to set a bone, do full-body massage, clean or repair teeth and other necessities of good health from afar. But even practices that must provide some services hands-on are morphing to a hybrid model, where some services are back within the practice/clinic and some, such as a routine consultation, can be offered quickly and efficiently via a remote connection. (We’ll discuss how telehealth is here to stay in another blog, coming shortly.)
But some practices can provide all of their “hands-off” services such as behavioral-health, dietary and other counseling services from virtually anywhere…and increasingly, many are doing so. Why? What are just a few of the many benefits of a totally virtual practice…and what are a few challenges?
- Significant cost savings by not requiring expensive office, utilities and other expenses at all, or a much-smaller and less-expensive space for secure offsite records storage, computer servers or other “bare necessities.”
- Expanded recruitment and patient opportunities — Since traffic or distance are no longer a factor, a fully virtual practice more easily can recruit qualified staff…from anywhere they reside, as long as they’re licensed to practice in your state, for example. And patients can likewise come from anywhere if they can find you through personal or professional referrals, online reviews and automated yet customizable email or phone campaigns.
Challenges & costs
- Technology access — Whether you use Zoom or another tool for remote video conversations, in most cases, you’ll need such a tool to do so. Phone conversations usually aren’t enough to satisfy patients. And, of course, for a video consult you’ll require a strong internet connection…possibly faster and stronger than you currently have at home. It may be time for an upgrade to deliver virtual services.
- Records access — As noted, a virtual practice requires easy-but-secure remote access to the systems you normally use in the office…from automated intake forms to patient records, appointment scheduling, reminders, HIPAA-compliant secure messaging, creating and sharing treatment notes, filing claims and superbills, accepting payments, and much more. In this third decade of the 21st century, many solutions are easily available through the cloud. Of course, you’ll need a system that can set access rights to various functions, based on the role(s) of each staff member, just as you could do in the office.
A provider success story: Mosaic Clinical Services, Kingston, NY
Becoming a totally virtual practice can be easier for some practices than others. For owner/clinician Tabitha Henson, LCSW-R, of Mosaic Clinical Services in Kingston, NY, it quickly became a no-brainer for the practice’s behavioral health services.
“I was originally a bit hesitant to go completely virtual with our mental-health services,” she explained. “But with COVID-19, I felt we needed to take the leap.
“I also knew we had to do something differently, as I was losing so much money every month and had only three employees.
“Due to COVID, we decided that in this stressful time, we needed to keep helping people, but for safety of patients and staff alike, we needed to close our office doors and provide all services virtually. When we began returning to the office in June 2020, I thought, ‘This is awful.’ We seemed to be getting the same positive results virtually, with improved work/life balance for staff. So I spoke with my other clinicians and asked them what they wanted to do — do you want to stay virtual, or go back to the office? And everyone said they wanted to stay virtual.
“So now thanks to the cloud-based practiceQ and its intakeQ online digital forms, we’re completely virtual. No physical locations. We found that with remote access to all of our records and systems, we had no real reason to go back to the office. We’re truly paper free, totally virtual. 99.9% of the stuff that is still faxed to us goes right through our system. We attach it to the patient’s chart and we’re good to go. From anywhere.
“This has allowed us the freedom not only to work from home or wherever to serve our patients, but to dramatically expand — really, more than triple — my clinical team in just a year because of the flexibility. We went from losing money with 3 clinicians to making money with a staff that we increased to 11 in one year…essentially hiring 3 people a quarter. A lot of that is due to having such a seamless system that’s easy to train people on while it keep tracks of revenue. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve saved more than $100,000 thanks to the intakeQ solutions.”
“With working remotely, each of us has a much better work/life balance, which is one of our core values,” Henson continued. “With that better balance in our lives, we can be better clinicians. That’s what it gives us. And we’ve provided just as effective care and just as effective specialized treatment.”
While we can’t say that a totally virtual practice works for every specialty and every service, with the right tools, many can indeed leverage the power of virtual services to positively impact the health of patients they serve. Learn more from Tabitha, and contact us here to schedule an appointment and demo for how practiceQ and its intakeQ digital forms can help make all or part of your practice virtual.