Productivity

5 Tech Tools You Need With A VA

 September 9, 2021

By  Uriah Guilford, MFT

minute read

  1. Electronic health record system
  2. Virtual phone system
  3. Admin email address
  4. Cloud storage for referral log
  5. Task management app

  Bonus Tip: Time-tracking software

Uriah Hello, and thanks so much for listening to the Productive Therapist Podcast! My name is Uriah, and I’m here with my cohost Tracel. Hello!

Tracel Hi. How are you today?

Uriah I’m doing good. So glad to be talking to you again.

Tracel Yeah, you too.

Uriah It’s been a minute since we’ve done a podcast together. We have been quite busy, haven’t we?

Tracel Oh, man, I can’t even take a breath sometimes. Yeah. A lot of stuff – good stuff, but a lot of stuff.

Uriah Yes. I know you’ve been busy talking to a bunch of therapists, filling our openings for virtual assistants, and that kind of prompted…the work that you and I’ve been doing together prompted this topic, talking about the tech that you need to get started with the virtual assistant, right?

Tracel Right.

Uriah Yeah.

Tracel It’s a good topic.

Uriah It is! And it’s hopefully practical and helpful for everybody listening. If you are currently working with a virtual assistant, you will get some things out of this as well, because it’s always possible to improve the technology that you’re using and the way that you’re using it. But if you are listening to this and you’re thinking about starting to work with a virtual assistant, this will be critical for you. So the first question I want to ask you is this: what do you think is the biggest challenge that therapists have when getting started with the virtual assistant?

Tracel I would say it’s twofold. It is either delegating or knowing what to delegate.

Uriah Yes, that’s so true, because we don’t naturally learn that in our education and in our licensure process and the idea and the execution of building a team and then learning how to let go of things. It just comes with all kinds of challenges, doesn’t it?

Tracel Right. And what you do as a solo practitioner, you’re the one doing all the jobs, and so they’re all very important. And thinking about delegating that to somebody else who may not care as much as you do with this baby you’ve created, your practice; that is a scary everything for a lot of people to think about handing certain tasks over to somebody else.

Uriah It’s an emotional endeavor, for sure!

Tracel Yeah.

Uriah So today we’re going to focus on the tech aspects, but definitely check out our course called Delegation Pro; we’ll put a link in the show notes, and that is full of tips on how to get better at delegating and working with a team. At Productive Therapist, our mission really is about helping therapists avoid burnout so they can get more done and have more fun. And one way to free up more time and enjoy your life is, of course, you guessed it…work with a virtual assistant! And I actually just got back from a trip to Hawaii, which was amazing. And I don’t know why I didn’t go there in 44 years, but it was kind of everything that everybody’s ever told me about, you know? I just never was excited about Hawaii. And then I realized once I got there, Oh, I get it! Right?! This is kind of magical.

Tracel Going to need your cliff notes. Never been there either.

Uriah Yeah, I will share pictures and cliff notes and all the above. Yes.

Tracel Good.

Uriah So on the plane, I actually read a book. I sort of weaned myself off of work, I guess you could say! So I read a book called The Replaceable Founder, which is an interesting idea to me, and he shared that you should not delegate before you optimize, which was an interesting idea. It made total sense, and it kind of clicked for me. Basically, you need to dial in your systems and processes before you try to delegate them. And we’ve seen this happen. And it’s a common mistake that therapists make where they go, ‘I just need help; I’m drowning, and I need an assistant.’ But they don’t have A, B, C or E that they need.

Tracel Happens all the time.

Uriah It does. And sometimes it can work if you have a highly competent, stellar VA that can kind of rein all those things in and help create the processes that can work. But that’s not ideal, is it?

Tracel No, it’s not.

Uriah So we’re going to share the five things, the most important tech platforms that you need to get started successfully with a VA. And this actually comes straight from our notes that we are working from when we are offering this thing called the Startup Package. And that is where we help therapists check all the boxes to get ready to work with a VA, right?

Tracel Yes.

Uriah There’s a ton of things in that. And we’ll put a link in the show notes if you want to get in touch with us about that so we can help you get prepared to work with a VA, whether or not you use our services.

Tracel Exactly.

Uriah Okay. So this is not everything, but these are the five, and I’ll just go ahead and list them off and then we’ll touch on each one briefly. So number one, electronic health record system number two, virtual phone system number three, admin email address number four, cloud storage for referral log, and number five, some sort of task management app. And then we’ve got a bonus one, so keep listening! We’ll share the bonus one in a few minutes. Right now, I’m going to pass the mic to my podcast editor and copywriter, Luci…

Luci Have you heard of the Productive Therapist Business Directory? Oh, heavens to Betsy, you’re gonna love this! This is literally the only business directory built just for therapists. And it’s where you’ll find the support and services you need to grow your private practice. This is where you’ll find your next SEO or Google AdWords specialist, your next business coach, a great virtual assistant, and so many other things. Each and every service in the directory is tailored to you and your therapy practice. Check it out today at Directory.ProductiveTherapist.com. Now back to you, Uriah.

Uriah  Okay, we’re back. So the first one is kind of self-explanatory. And I think – correct me if I’m wrong – but most of the people you talk to already have an EHR in place, right?

Tracel Yes. There is only one person I can remember that we worked with who had just… it was funny, she had an EHR, but she hadn’t used it for six months. She was still doing everything pen and paper. So we had to help her get all of those six months worth of stuff into her EHR. But I think other than that, everybody comes to us with an EHR.

Uriah Yeah. And some people are not happy with their EHR, and we can and have helped them move to a new one.

Tracel Right.

Uriah And then also we can help people learn how to use their EHR more effectively. And most people, I guess…we work with a good number of solo practices and a lot of group practices as well. And maybe if a solo practitioner’s never used one of the delegation roles in their EHR, that might be new to them, right? The biller or scheduler role. So figuring out how to use that is pretty helpful. So that’s number one: EHR. You probably already have that in place. But just to put a footnote in there, you might want to figure out how you can use it better and how you can use it with an assistant. That’s a blog post we should write! Number two is a virtual phone system, and I would say less of the people we talk to have this in place already; some folks are using just a regular cell phone and they’re carrying it around with them, right?

Tracel Right. Or they have a second cell phone just for the business. That sounds like a nightmare, trying to keep two phones.

Uriah Some people love that, though!

Tracel They do!

Uriah ’It just helps me separate things.’

Tracel It makes me crazy thinking about it!

Uriah I would not want to carry around two large smartphones, right?

Tracel No.

Uriah And then some people have just basically a phone system through their local carrier. Maybe they even have a physical phone or something like that. But in order to work with a virtual team member, even if you have an assistant that is what we call Local/Remote, so they live in your area but they mostly work from home, you’re going to want to have some sort of virtual phone system.

Tracel Right.

Uriah And there’s a ton out there. You can use Google Voice. We also like and promote one called Talk Route, as well as Telzio. And then, just to mention it, Phone.com is what a lot of our members use. And there’s some mixed reviews with that one. We stopped recommending it a little while ago, but it is affordable, HIPAA-compliant and all the above.

Tracel Right.

Uriah Yeah. So virtual phone system. And some percentage of the people that we work with, we are helping them move phone systems or set up a new one. So that is key. And I’ll also add, too, not everybody who is a therapist is also a tech-savvy person. Those two don’t always go together! So if you identify things on this list that you know you need or you need help with, find somebody to help you with that because you don’t have to struggle through that alone, right?

Tracel Right.

Uriah Definitely. Virtual phone systems can be a hassle to set up sometimes, right? Number three is the admin email address. And this is really important because you want a separate email address that you are not tied to using and have your fingers in, ideally! Because that’s really important for there to be a dedicated contact point for the assistant to handle all….and that’s where you want to send all the inquiries, whether they’re web forms, obviously, notifications for new callers, anything that you can think of that’s about new clients.

Tracel And the benefit of that is…hopefully you’re trying to delegate, and this is something that is going to help you with that process. If you have emails that are still coming to your email address, you’re going to see them, you’re going to wonder about them. But if you have everything go through one email address that your VA is handling, then you can really take something completely off of your plate and let somebody else handle it for you.

Uriah Absolutely. So if you’re listening to this podcast and you are checking the admin email address on a regular basis and trying to “oversee your assistant’s work,” stop it! It’s probably not a good use of your time. The admin email address – and that can be set up any number of ways – I think most commonly we see that done with Google Workplace, which is just, in my opinion, one of the easiest ways to do that. And they have really great customer service if you need help configuring or tweaking the settings for that one. And we commonly recommend that the admin email address be something like [email protected]rWebsite.com or Admin or [email protected]…something like that, something that’s friendly and obvious what it’s about, clear what it is. Next one is cloud storage for a referral log or some sort of way to have a shared document referral log that the practice owner and intake coordinator virtual assistant can work on together. And we were talking about this last week, weren’t we…or no, maybe it was the week before, about where else can you do this besides, like, a Google Sheet inside of Google Drive and I thought of a couple answers. Did you come up with anything?

Tracel Well, Dropbox is good. There was something else that I was researching, and it seemed like it was more involved and cost-prohibitive because it did all these other things when you just need something to store. So, I don’t know, what else did you come up with?

Uriah So you’re right. Dropbox and OneDrive can be HIPAA-compliant, so you can basically create an Excel document or some sort of spreadsheet document, and then just store the document there. And then when anybody who has access to that updates it, it reflects everywhere. I don’t love that idea, but it can work. So that is probably option number two. Option number three – and most practices aren’t going to do this – but using a proper, fully featured CRM, which stands for Customer or Client Relationship Manager, like Keep by infusion Soft. There’s a bunch of them out there. There’s only a handful that are HIPAA-compliant, but that’s pretty high level stuff. I know you’ve worked with one of those before, right?

Tracel Yes, I did work with that. And that was the thing when I was doing my research is there are so many bells and whistles that you don’t need all of those, so I don’t know why you would pay for that if you didn’t need it. Maybe this is what we need to come up with – an alternative store! No, I’m sorry!

Uriah You keep coming up with these ideas, we could start a software company!

Tracel That’s not what we should do!

Uriah Yeah, no! But we should find one.

Tracel Yes, we should.

Uriah If I was to grow my practice to 20, 30, 40, 50 clinicians, I would 100% invest in that, though, because you can do automations and workflows. And it’s a really nice way to keep track of….because if your referral volume goes from 20 clients a month to 200 clients a month – or referrals, you know, incoming folks – that’s a lot to keep track of for anybody. So you need a better system.

Tracel Yes.

Uriah So our basic recommendation would be a Google Sheet spreadsheet. We have a template for that as well. You can reach out to us if you want; we can send that to you. That’s stored in Google Drive with the BAA signed with Google. That’s the easiest way to go. The last one – and this one is one that people don’t usually have because they just haven’t needed it or haven’t thought they needed it – but we recommend it. And that is a task management app, something like Trello, Asana or ToDoist. And this is just, I mean, you can absolutely communicate and delegate all the things you need to delegate by email, but there’s just really no good way to keep track of it and have an overview of projects or tasks that you want to work on, right?

Tracel That’s right.

Uriah So we use ToDoist internally, and we have a new platform that we’re going to be rolling out to use with all of our members that has even more features. But we recommend that, and pretty soon we’re going to be requiring it just because it’s a good thing to get used to. And when we talk about delegating, when you are having have an idea in the middle of the night or any time and you want to pass something off to your virtual assistant or your in-office assistant, you need a way to be able to do that a place to put those things so you’re not bothering them outside of work hours.

Tracel Right.

Uriah And a task management app is good for that.

Tracel And the thing that’s great about it is that you can keep track of what’s been completed and what hasn’t. And I also love the feature of being able to attach a due date to it, and you can check and see how much time do I have left if it’s something that’s reoccurring. It’s so handy to use and really is something that’s going to make your life easier, even if you just use it for yourself. If you’re a solo practice, it’s a really great way to just keep yourself organized. And this is coming from somebody who loves a calendar, physically writing things down. But these apps are really a great thing to add to your arsenal!

Uriah I know we talked to a couple of therapists recently, and when we ask them the question, how do you to record your tasks that you need to handle? And two of them said, I have PostIt notes everywhere! And I said, That’s great, I love PostIt notes. We need also to add to that some place for those to live! I’m a big fan of…this is one of my productivity tips, I guess you could say, is using analog methods. I even have a desk that I’m sitting at right now that is basically a giant whiteboard that I can write all over with dry-erase markers. And then when I’m done with the notes that I’m taking for a meeting or something, I take a picture of it, and then I put that in my Evernote account so I can store it for later. So I like to combine both of those. Yeah. Okay. So those are the five most important tech platforms you need to have to get started successfully with a VA. First one is EHR. Second one is virtual phone system. Third is admin email address. Fourth is cloud storage for a referral log. And five is a task management app. And then our bonus one – and this is something that most people who start to delegate to an assistant don’t think about and then regret later – is a time tracking software.

Tracel Right.

Uriah I’m sure you hear that sometimes when you talk to therapists that have had an assistant in the past, but there was issues or problems, and sometimes it comes down to, I just don’t know what they’re doing; they submit their timesheet and it’s got all these hours on it, and I don’t know what they did.

Tracel That’s exactly right. I’ve heard several people say that, and it’s been not only frustrating, but caused them to search for a new VA because they’ve even asked for time reports and haven’t received anything.

Uriah That is even another level of, Oh, no!

Tracel Right. Yes!

Uriah So we highly recommend this, and we use a platform called Harvest – I believe the site is GetHarvest.com. You can also check out Toggle. There’s a bunch out there, but some way for your assistant to track time, number one, and include notes and details about what they have accomplished. In my mind, that’s the only way to have proper oversight, especially if it’s a virtual employee or a virtual contractor. Right?

Tracel Yes.

Uriah So I highly recommend using a time tracking software. And some therapists, a lot of therapists are not used to being a boss or even working with contractors, and this can feel like a little too micromanagey. But trust me, it’s not. And everybody who works anywhere, including the CEO of a company, needs to have oversight and quality control, but in a way that is about making sure there’s just transparency and everybody can know kind of what’s happening. So there you go. These are all things that we can help you with. We have a limited number of openings for this startup package we were mentioning. So if you are interested in that, go ahead and shoot us an email at [email protected] therapist.com and put in the subject line: Start Me Up. There’s a Rolling Stones reference for you!

Tracel Very nice.

Uriah A good song, right?

Tracel Yeah, it is.

Uriah Thanks for chatting today, Tracel. Have a good one.

Tracel You too.

Uriah Bye.

Uriah Guilford, MFT


Uriah is a group practice owner and the creator of Productive Therapist. He is a technology nerd, a minimalist travel packer, a rock drummer and business development enthusiast.

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