You’ve probably found yourself transitioning your ABA practice towards a remote operation, for the time being, or for a more permanent change to your practice, and you are not alone. There is a growing wave of telehealth services being offered online due to the overall convenience, lowered cost, and added ability to reach clients in more remote areas that would otherwise have difficulty receiving much-needed services.
While there may be some hesitation and concern, especially when it comes to ABA services, rest assured that studies have shown that telehealth services are just as effective as in-person sessions and are more cost-effective. In 2016, a study published by Dr. Scott Lindgren et al in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, compared the outcomes of ABA services delivered via home-based telehealth, clinic-based telehealth, and in-home therapy. The results of the study concluded: “The mean percentage reduction in problem behavior was >90% in all 3 groups after treatment, and treatment acceptability based on parent ratings was high for all groups.”
While the benefits of a remote ABA practice are plentiful, the transition still might take some getting used to for everyone involved. Any change takes time and adjustment, but there are some steps you can take to get things up and running as smoothly as possible.
Tip #1: Optimize Your Workspace
Whether you already have a home office space or are setting up a new one, there are some extra things to consider as you transition that space into a more full-time base of operations. While each person’s ideal workspace might look a little different, there are some key issues to keep in mind when it comes to setting up a home office.
- Maintain a space that is quiet and free from distractions. Various studies show that interruptions can take between 10-30 minutes to recover from, and a home office presents even more challenges for maintaining focus and temptations for getting off task. It’s important to have a clearly delineated area that is as free from distractions and interruptions as possible, especially if there are others in the home while you are working.
- Get organized. Interruptions don’t always come from other people. Taking too much time and energy to find a certain file or piece of information can send your workflow into a grinding halt and take time out of your day. It’s worth it to put in the work upfront to get an organization system in place so that you can focus on other important tasks as you go about your day.
- Keep a few items around that help you feel grounded. Something as simple as a scented candle or stress ball sitting on your desk can offer a little bit of respite after you’ve been at work a while and need a mini-break.
- Don’t make it TOO comfortable. While we all want to be comfortable at work whether it’s having the right office chair, or beloved odds-n-ends around the room, working from home runs the risk of feeling too homey and relaxed. You want your office to signal to your brain that this is a workspace, whatever that may mean to you.
Tip #2: Prepare Your Space for Teleconferencing
Even if you have an office already set up to your liking, you may need to make some changes if you are just starting to utilize teleconferencing in this workspace.
- Make sure your background is clean and free of clutter.
- Often times, we set up our desks against a wall or a window, making the entire room visible when using a webcam. If the view in that direction is a little too busy, a simple fix is to turn your desk around so that only a wall is visible behind you.
- A well-organized bookshelf can be nice as a background as well, or you can shop around for a background that you’d like to hang behind you.
- Get the right equipment.
- If you don’t already have one, investing in a quality headset with a mute button can help you account for any outside noises that may occur out of your control such as barking dogs or loud neighbors.
- You may also want to upgrade your webcam for the clearest picture possible.
- Check your internet connection.
- While many connections are fine for casual browsing, teleconferencing puts a higher burden on your connection. If your speeds are unreliable, it might be time to get a wifi-extender, stronger modem, or to connect via a hard line.
- If possible, you may even need to upgrade your service with your internet provider.
- When your internet is ready to go, it’s still a great habit to maintain to check your internet speeds before each start of the day’s sessions to ensure nothing out of the ordinary will stall or delay your meetings.
Tip #3: Create a Routine to Support Your Time Management
Keeping a routine is a great way to help create a productive work environment in a remote space. Set yourself up for success by creating a routine and schedule that works for you.
- Find a productivity method that works for you.
- Everyone operates in different ways, and sometimes finding the best time management strategy can be a matter of trial and error. Many favor the Pomodoro Technique which follows a pattern of working in 25-minute increments followed by short breaks. Others find they are more productive with longer stretches of time in chunks, followed by longer breaks. Whatever method you find works best for you, stick to it.
- Get in the right mindset for your workday.
- When working remotely, mindset is incredibly important. Even though you may no longer have a commute or coworkers around, you can still follow your normal routine for getting ready in the mornings, having breakfast, and taking your regular lunch break.
- Avoid work creep.
- Working from home, the temptation to get looser with scheduling is always present. While it may be tempting to put off the less pressing tasks for a later time, it’s important for your own self-care to keep specific and distinct work hours. If your work-life creeps too far into your free time, you’ll be at a greater risk of stress and burn-out.
Tip #4: Get Your Employees on the Same Page
If you are managing employees that are also new to telehealth, they will be looking to you for guidance and structure. Company culture is just as important in a remote setting as it is in an office, possibly even more so as employees are left more freedom to make decisions in unfamiliar working conditions that will present new challenges and require different modes of operation.
As soon as you are able, get any necessary new standards and protocols established to help your employees navigate the transition to remote work. You will need to continue to update these protocols if new issues arise. Examples of new issues that may pop up with telehealth services include what the operating procedure should be if IT problems and poor connection cut into therapy time, what happens in the event of a no-show (is it the same as in-office, or different?), what do you do if a parent or child closes out of a session before it’s completed and doesn’t return?
As part of your remote protocols, you will want to pay special attention to regulations regarding HIPAA and telehealth communications when it comes to interactions between ABA therapy providers and clients.
Tip #5: Allow Time for Clients and Employees to Adjust to the Changes
While some clients and therapists might adjust to the transition easily, others will need a little more help getting adjusted. Prepare yourself and your employees to be ready for coaching clients through technical difficulties and questions about equipment and how the sessions will work. You may also need to be prepared to explain the benefits of telehealth services and ease parent concerns over the changes and transitions they’ll be facing.
When it comes to the children you are working with, there may be a period of becoming reacquainted as they adjust to a new way of interacting. Set aside some time, if needed, to take these issues as they come. As always, remain positive and adaptable!
Tip #6: Make Scheduling and Billing as Simple as Possible for Yourself, Your Clients, and Your Employees
While there are advantages to remote ABA therapy when it comes to scheduling, such as the removal of commute times, there are challenges as well. Without a centralized front desk to set appointments and handle insurance billing and paperwork for clients and providers it’s even more essential to have easy-to-use software to make the process seamless for all parties involved.
The best software will be easy to use and have automated appointment reminders as well as validation warnings to prevent scheduling sessions that are not covered. Ideally, an all-in-one practice management software is the way to go so that you aren’t using and learning multiple programs and platforms for your various needs through each step of the processing and paperwork.
If you’re looking for the total package to help you manage your ABA practice remotely, DataFinch has you covered. Our sister companies offer a full range of services that include administrative assistance, dedicated practice management software specifically designed for ABA providers, and a knowledgeable insurance billing team. All of our software is compatible with both Mac and PC computers.
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This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be used in lieu of practitioners own due diligence, state and federal regulations, and funders’ policies. During the Coronavirus pandemic, and when implementing telehealth, be sure to use your resources and complete the proper follow-up with funders and insurance.