Offering telehealth services allows speech and language providers the flexibility to create their schedules according to their personal as well as their clients’ needs. However, if not effectively planned, speech providers can end up spending longer hours in front of the computer, requiring longer shifts to complete all the tasks associated with a private practice (e.g., documentation, billing, scheduling appointments, etc).
Let’s explore 5 tips to learn how to effectively schedule your time as a speech telehealth provider.
Understand your clients’ schedules
Understanding your clients’ availability is the first step into creating an effective work schedule as a speech telehealth provider. This will allow you as a speech provider to understand the times that work best, as well as the frequency and the duration of the services. Some clients will require appointments once a week for one-hour sessions, while others will require appointments at least three times per week for 30-minute sessions. The initial phone interview is an excellent opportunity to set the schedule and allocate the time in your calendar (Here is when the Noala Weekly Calendar, Google Calendars, or any weekly planner will allow you to have a clear understanding of your agenda). Once you have determined your clients’ schedules, it is recommended to identify blocks of time to provide services (e.g., Providing services between 8:00 am to 10:00am), while allowing gaps of 5 to 10 minutes to prepare for the next session. Speech providers should be mindful about the gaps between sessions. When there are big gaps between appointments, chances are that other tasks can distract you (e.g., You might feel tempted to make that delicious recipe you saw online).
It is also important to provide clear information to clients about your availability, the length of the sessions, your office hours, and if not available, how soon you can get to them. This will allow you to organize your day accordingly, as you can also allocate specific times during the day to make phone calls and reply to emails.
Structure your sessions
Sometimes sessions can be a run a bit longer than expected. This is normal as different factors can contribute to this, including you client feeling extra motivated to complete the session tasks. However, if it becomes a habit to spend extra time in your sessions, this can end up disrupting the flow of your schedule. This can result in receiving complaints from unhappy clients that come on time to sessions, expecting the same from you. Here is when keeping your sessions structured can be helpful. Conduct a telehealth consultation while keeping in mind that the session will have a beginning (e.g., initial remarks, greeting, clarifying questions from the previous session, etc), middle (e.g., completing sessions tasks targeting the therapy goals, etc), and end (e.g., final remarks, homework, etc). As time goes on, clients will start adapting to this model, as they will know what to expect in their session. Towards the end, it can be also helpful to set some reminders to keep track of the time (e.g., setting an alarm 5 minutes before the session is over).
Preparing your telehealth sessions
As time in between sessions can be limited, scheduling time to prepare session materials is crucial to effectively meet the client’s speech and language session goals. This can be in fact a time-consuming process as there are thousands of speech and language resources available. The Noala team has created an amazing library with online materials targeting different goals, which can be also added to a specific client. This way you can keep all the information in one place. If you cannot a specific exercise that you would like to use in session, you can click on the “Request Exercise” button to ask the Noala Team to add it for you. If you also have other resources that you enjoy using for your sessions outside of the Noala platform, you can also create an excel sheet where you can keep track of all the websites that you commonly used in sessions. This way all the information is readily available to be used for future sessions.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), accurate documentation allows the analysis of the kinds of services provided, supports the need of services in case your services are challenged, and it provides evidence that your services are in compliance with state and payer rules and regulations. A common mistake as speech telehealth providers is waiting until the last minute to complete documentation. Many factors can influence this decision, being one of them not identifying specific times during the day to complete this essential step. This can in fact jeopardise the accuracy of the documentation, while increasing the frustration it results from having work accumulating. Allocating specific periods of time to complete documentation (e.g., session notes, progress report, etc), can support the goal of effectively scheduling your time as a telehealth provider. Each day, after all sessions are completed, decide the amount of time you would like to devote to this task and add it to your planner. This will help you stay on track with goals, while decreasing your workload by the end of the week.
So far, we have discussed the daily tasks associated with the workload of a telehealth provider. However, it is essential to also consider scheduling time to take care of ourselves. For some, transitioning from an in-person setting where they were constantly moving around, to a remote setting can be challenging. It is essential to schedule specific times during the day to complete activities that can in fact support the quality of your services. For instance, scheduling times during the day to having your meals away from the computer, taking a walk, stretching out and meditating can increase your productivity levels allowing you to efficiently complete all your tasks.
Effectively scheduling your time as a speech telehealth provider can be challenging, however, good time management and organisational skills can decrease frustration levels associated with the workload. Also, identifying platforms that combine all the tools needed to provide telehealth services allows you to spend more time completing the tasks that you enjoy the most. Start managing all your clients in one place. Try Noala’s first month for free and see what a difference it can make in your daily practice!
References from effectiv time management as a telehealth provider
Boisvert, M. K., & Hall, N. (2019). Telepractice for school-based speech and language services: A workload management strategy. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 4(1), 211-216. https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_PERS-SIG18-2018-0004
C2c telehealth resources | CMS. (s. f.). Telehealth Practice: What you need to Know. https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/OMH/equity-initiatives/c2c/consumer-resources/telehealth-resources
Module three: Documentation of slp services in different settings. (s. f.). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/practice/reimbursement/module-three/
Telehealth. (s. f.). Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. https://www.rcslt.org/members/delivering-quality-services/telehealth-guidance/