The average receptionist had median earnings of nearly $30,000 in 2018. This can be a hefty sum for a therapist to pay, even in a group practice. Yet assistants fill important roles, making it easier to do your job and lending an air of credibility and professionalism to your therapy practice.
A virtual assistant for your therapy practice may help bridge the gap between the help you can afford and the help you need. Your virtual assistant is a contractor who will probably work for other people, allowing them to earn more while charging each individual client less.
So should you hire a private practice virtual assistant? Here are the pros and cons of doing so, and the questions you can ask before making the decision.
Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant for Private Practice
Virtual assistants offer many benefits, including:
- Affordability. Depending on how you structure your agreement, you can pay only for the hours you need, without worrying about giving your assistant enough hours. Or you can keep the assistant on-call for a set period, allowing them to work for other clients and for you at the same time. This means you’ll pay less.
- Contractor convenience. Because virtual assistants are usually contractors, you do not have to worry about payroll taxes. The assistant is unlikely to expect you to pay benefits or give paid time off.
- Flexibility. Many people hire virtual assistants to work unusual or irregular hours.
- Access to many of the benefits of a traditional assistant. You'll gain most of the benefits that a receptionist or similar assistant offers, including someone to schedule appointments, answer the phones, file paperwork and insurance claims, and manage daily accounting.
- Niche skills. Some virtual assistants specialize in therapy or medical practices, which means they are knowledgeable about privacy laws, client confidentiality, and even mental health.
Risks of Hiring a Virtual Assistant for Private Practice
Every hire presents some tradeoffs, and a virtual assistant is no different. Some drawbacks of hiring a therapy desk virtual assistant include:
- Privacy concerns. While any staff member can leak sensitive information, the concern may be higher when your assistant has several clients or works remotely. You’ll need to establish clear rules for following HIPAA guidelines, and should memorialize these expectations in the assistant’s contract.
- In-person availability. Most virtual assistants work remotely, which means you won’t have a friendly face to greet clients.
- Expense. While a virtual assistant typically costs less than a full or even part-time employee, you’ll still be spending more than you would if you hired no one. So consider whether the expense is worth it.
Some companies now offer artificial intelligence-based virtual assistants. These assistants are not people at all, but machines that can perform simple functions. This type of assistant usually cannot meet the needs of a therapist practice, and may present several privacy and ethical concerns.
Questions to Consider Before Making the Decision
Considering a few simple questions may help you decide whether hiring a virtual assistant is right for you:
- Do I spend time on administrative tasks that an assistant could perform instead?
- If I had an assistant, would I have more time for clients?
- Do I worry that I might lose business because no one answers the phone?
- Do I struggle with managing my schedule?
- Can I afford to pay an assistant? How much can I afford per week, and how many hours of assistance will that get me?
- Could I earn more or have more free time if I hired a virtual assistant?
- How much time will I need to spend managing and training a virtual assistant?
- Do I know anyone who has, and can recommend, their virtual assistant?
Where to Find a Good Therapy Virtual Assistant
Sites like Upwork have made it easy to find contractors for virtually every role. If you use such a site to find your assistant, be sure you screen them properly. Ask for references. Ask them to sign a contract, and consider choosing someone in the U.S., since this makes it easier to enforce your contract if they violate it.
Some other ways to find a good virtual assistant include:
- Ask for referrals from other therapists.
- Talk to your doctor, dentist, or other medical providers about their practice management strategies. You may find that some employ a virtual assistant.
- Contact your local professional organization for tips and referrals. Some maintain a list of good agencies or virtual assistants.
- Reach out to a local college or university. They may have students looking for part-time jobs.
Once your new virtual assistant starts, you can monitor their results to see if it adds value to how you run your business and serve your clients.
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- Receptionists: occupational outlook handbook. (2019, September 4). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/receptionists.htm