As my private practice as a therapist grew, I had to learn how to do my administrative tasks more efficiently. One of the downsides of being a solo practitioner is that you end of doing all of everything yourself. When I grew to the point of having people on a wait list, I decided it was time to bring other people into the practice. The daily tasks of returning phone calls, answering questions about our services and setting appointments was consuming too much of my time. I would rather spend that time doing things like sessions and the creative things needed to grow the business. What I really needed was an administrative assistant to delegate the essential but necessary daily tasks.
Delegating tasks creates a more efficient use of time
Being able to delegate tasks is one of the most essential management principles for any business not matter how large or small. If you think about your doctor or any other professional services you might use, they all depend on support staff. If a doctor had to do all of the office work, they would have no time to see patients. The same was true for me as my practice grew.
I knew it was finally time to hire an assistant. I also knew that to hire someone to be an assistant onsite as an employee would just be too much of an expense for me. So it made sense to look into a virtual assistant. It would be much less expensive and they could be located anywhere! I also knew that I needed to learn how to set all that up and make it as seamless as possible. I wanted potential clients to feel that they were dealing with someone from my office and that they could truly help them is setting up appointments and answering any questions they had.
Here are some steps I took and things I learned as I got this set up for my office.
Finding the right person
Obviously in finding a virtual assistant it needs to be someone that is reliable and trustworthy. Also someone that is a good communicator and knows how to be professional on the phone are both a must. Having knowledge about a therapy or medical practice is a plus, but not necessarily essential. Finding someone that is organized and has the ability to work efficiently is also a plus. They will also need to be a good self-started and proactive with how they work.
I was fortunate in that the first virtual assistant I hired I had supervised for licensure. She was a new mom and had cut back on the amount of therapy she was trying to do. She was someone I knew fairly well and knew her work habits. She was also already familiar our practice management system and therapy.
I would suggest that in hiring someone as a virtual assistant that you maybe start with finding someone you know. Maybe a college student or stay at home mom/dad. There are professional virtual assistant services out there, but I just preferred having someone that was more local and focused on just my practice.
Having a Virtual Office and Workspace
With all of the virtual and cloud based tools available it would be difficult to name them all here. I use a combination of several that are both free and widely used. I use Dropbox and Google Drive for storing files and documents that we use in our office. (intake packets, release forms, etc.) I like using Evernote to save projects and other reference materials I use. All of these platforms can be easily shared and accessed remotely. Google calendar is another great tool for keeping appointments etc. if you are not using another practice management system. I use Therapyappointment.com for that. (More about that here)
Google Voice is the perfect solution for a private practice
The office essential for any private practice are phones, voicemail, faxes and email. And when using a virtual assistant, they need to have access to voicemails. A free and easy solution is the use of Google Voice in conjunction with a Gmail account. Google Voice is a free service through Google that allows you to have one phone number to connect all of your phones. It is the perfect solution for a private practice.
Setting up Google Voice and Gmail to communicate with a virtual assistant
I put together some detailed instructions for how to set up voicemail forwarding using Google Voice and Gmail. You can download those here or watch this short tutorial video.
The key to having a successful private practice is to learn the art of working smarter not harder. With the use of all the online tools and applications, a virtual office just makes sense.
L. Gordon Brewer, Jr.- practiceoftherapy.com