Behavioral health professionals work hard to support their patients. That’s why many of them decide to hire a behavioral health assistant to get hands-on support in their practice.
A behavioral health assistant is a professional who works under the supervision of a licensed mental health provider to care for patients and handle the bulk of administrative duties in a clinic.
So what makes an effective behavioral health assistant for your practice? How much should you pay them? Which skills should you look for?
Here, we’ll discuss the roles and responsibilities of a behavioral health assistant and what to look for in one. You’ll also learn about the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant to perform these duties.
What is a behavioral health assistant?
A behavioral health assistant works closely with mental health practitioners to provide better support for their patients. Traditionally, they often help a therapist provide counseling, but they also have an important role to play in the administration of a behavioral health clinic.
The role of a behavioral health assistant is to allow their direct supervisor to focus on supporting patients as they develop healthy coping mechanisms and treatment plans. In doing so, patients can make positive lifestyle changes.
Behavioral health assistants typically work in outpatient settings. But they can also work in behavioral health facilities, mental health clinics, or substance abuse treatment centers. If you run a school, hospital, or private practice, you may find it useful to onboard a behavioral health assistant.
These professionals may also work virtually to assist patients in receiving treatment. For instance, behavioral health assistants may assist physicians with post-appointment activities.
These activities may include filing paperwork, communicating with patients and their families, maintaining health records, and scheduling future appointments.
While much of a behavioral health assistant's role is clinical, there's also an administrative side. However, you don't necessarily have to hire in-office assistants for this, considering the higher cost of doing so. You could also outsource this work to virtual assistants — a more cost-effective approach.
Did you know that Hello Rache's qualified Healthcare Virtual Assistants can save your business more than 50% of the cost of hiring an in-person assistant while still providing high-quality care? Book a call with our team to learn how this works.
What does a behavioral health assistant do? Roles and responsibilities
You can outsource several responsibilities to your behavioral health assistant. Let’s explore all the tasks they can handle.
Whenever your patients need a question answered or are seeking support, your behavioral health assistant can help. There’s no need for you to try to help everyone at the same time.
As long as your assistant is well-trained, they can educate patients about their mental health conditions and teach them how to manage their symptoms. They can also help them access the right resources.
Filing electronic health records
Behavioral health assistants are also responsible for filing and managing patient records. This may include inputting data into an electronic health record system and maintaining physical files.
Managing billing and insurance
In some cases, behavioral health assistants handle billing and insurance claims. They may liaise with insurance companies to get prior approval for treatment, submit claims, and track payments.
Collaborating with cross-disciplinary teams
Behavioral health assistants often work with teams of other professionals to develop and implement treatment plans.
These teams may include psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, and nurses. The assistant's role is to facilitate communication between team members and remove the burden of organizing these conversations from your shoulders.
Providing administrative support
Behavioral health assistants may also provide general administrative support for the office. Their responsibilities include answering phones, scheduling appointments, and handling correspondence.
Collecting and updating patient information
Behavioral health assistants collect information from patients by performing live charting during appointments. Instead of taking notes yourself, your assistant can be present in the room — letting you focus on listening to your patients and providing them care.
After the appointment is over, the assistant can update patient records and transcribe the information from the live charting notes.
Ensuring patient safety
Patient safety is behavioral health assistants’ chief concern. They take measures to prevent accidents and injuries.
They also provide support to patients who are at risk of harming themselves or others.
Education requirements for a behavioral health assistant
Many states have certification or licensure requirements for behavioral health assistants. However, certification isn’t always required.
Interested individuals can take online or on-campus education programs. These are offered at the associate's or bachelor's degree level. Some programs may need clinical experience besides coursework.
Most assistants typically have a high school diploma. However, who you hire will depend on the scope of the work they’ll need to perform.
For instance, you can hire someone with general administrative knowledge if you only need support with appointment setting and scheduling. However, it’s important to look for someone with knowledge of behavioral health if you need support with transcription, live charting, and medical documentation.
In addition to education, training is necessary. In some cases, on-the-job training might be enough. However, those who wish to pursue certification or licensure may need additional training, especially in HIPAA compliance.
Must-have skills for a behavioral health assistant
When looking for a behavioral health assistant for your medical practice, there are a few critical skills you should look for. These skills will ensure that your behavioral health assistant can effectively communicate with patients and understand their needs.
Active listening means paying close attention to what a patient says verbally and non-verbally. It includes understanding the words they say and the emotions they convey.
Since behavioral health assistants will be working closely with patients, it’s essential that they understand them.
Behavioral health assistants must have communication skills that go beyond patient communication. Because your clinic will rely on them to collaborate with other healthcare professionals and insurance companies, the best candidate should be a talented communicator in every aspect of their work.
A behavioral health assistant will manage appointment scheduling, patient records, and other administrative duties that require strong organizational skills. They should be able to avoid scheduling conflicts and data loss.
Most behavioral health assistants communicate with patients who have mental illnesses. These patients may be difficult to deal with. Because of this, patience is a vital skill in an assistant.
Behavioral health assistants must also be able to remain calm in challenging situations.
Behavioral health assistants should be capable of making decisions on their own. For example, they’ll have to refer incoming phone calls to the appropriate member of your team.
Without critical thinking skills, a behavioral health assistant will rely too much on you or other staff members, which defeats the entire purpose of getting help.
Because patients in a behavioral health setting are typically going through emotional turmoil, your assistant needs to show empathy at all times.
Through empathy, behavioral health assistants can provide patients with support and care. Plus, empathy can help build trust between the patient and the assistant.
Behavioral health assistant salary: How much should you pay an assistant?
The average behavioral health assistant salary in the US is $34,474 per year or $17 an hour. However, depending on your location, the salary can reach $46,500 per year.
The highest behavioral health assistant salary is in Green River, WY. Professionals there are paid $43,021 per year or $20.68 per hour. Green River is followed by Atkinson, NE, San Francisco, CA, Cool Valley, MO, and Bolinas, CA.
Location affects salaries because of the cost of living. So if you're hiring anyone in a city with a high cost of living, you should expect to pay them more.
Experience is another critical factor that influences how much you should pay your behavioral health assistant. An entry-level assistant with minimal experience, for instance, typically makes less than a seasoned veteran.
To learn more about how Hello Rache can help your medical practice save time and money with qualified virtual assistants, book a call with our team.
Why is it a good idea to hire a virtual behavioral health assistant?
A virtual behavioral health assistant makes sense for many reasons.
While many roles performed by behavioral health assistants are clinical, such as providing assistance with therapy and administering medication, others are more administrative.
Behavioral health assistants may maintain patient records, schedule appointments, and bill insurance companies. Some behavioral health assistants may also support patients' families by helping them understand the treatment process and providing resources for coping.
Fortunately, you can hire virtual behavioral health assistants to assist with administrative tasks at your practice. Hello Rache's virtual assistants are HIPAA-compliant and industry-proficient, ensuring the highest standard of patient care.
Plus, you don't have to offer virtual assistants any employee benefits, and they don’t need in-office space.
Here are some benefits of working with a virtual behavioral health assistant.
One of the best parts about virtual assistants is that they can work around your schedule. If you need someone to help cover your late-night hours, a virtual assistant can be there for you.
Hiring a virtual assistant is often more cost-effective than hiring a full-time or part-time employee. You don’t have to worry about benefits, vacation time, or other associated costs.
That’s because Hello Rache virtual behavioral health assistants live in the Philippines, which has a much lower cost of living than the US.
You also don't have to offer these assistants commuter assistance. Healthcare professionals in the Philippines would much rather work remotely for your private practice than go through the usual three-hour commute in their local area.
Real medical experience
Virtual assistants from Hello Rache aren’t just administrative workers. They’re real healthcare professionals with hands-on clinical experience.
For instance, many of them are registered nurses. But because registered nurses only average $20 a day in the Philippines, it makes sense for them to work remotely for people like you instead.
How to hire the right virtual behavioral health assistant
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the job outlook for psychiatric technicians and aides is 11%, which is higher than average. As a result, you may struggle to find talented workers locally since more and more employers will need their help.
That’s just one more reason to hire someone remotely instead. Here’s how you can find the best virtual behavioral health assistant for your private practice.
Check for HIPAA compliance
Behavioral health assistants will work with patients and their confidential information. As such, employers must check for their assistants’ compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
You should request to see a potential behavioral health assistant's HIPAA certification. If the assistant isn’t certified, they may still be able to follow HIPAA regulations. But this will need to be verified.
With Hello Rache, you won’t need to perform this step. All our Healthcare Virtual Assistants receive HIPAA training before they meet you.
Ask the right interview questions
Here are some good questions to ask:
- How have you handled difficult patient interactions in the past?
- What would you do if a patient disclosed sensitive information to you?
- What is your experience working with different mental health disorders?
- How do you deal with stress while working?
- Do you have any experience with crisis intervention?
You can also ask general questions about the candidate’s experience in customer service or healthcare.
Consider a background check
It's helpful to know that your behavioral health assistant has a clean criminal record, as they’ll work with vulnerable populations.
If you decide to conduct a background check, follow all the necessary procedures so that the check is legal. You can review a potential assistant's criminal record by requesting a copy of their criminal history from state police.
Hello Rache performs a background check on every virtual assistant before hiring them, which removes this step from your search.
Hire a virtual behavioral health assistant to manage patients with ease
Virtual behavioral health assistants are valuable assets to any healthcare team. They help manage your clinic and streamline clerical processes at an affordable cost.
If you are interested in hiring a remote behavioral health assistant, schedule a consultation with Hello Rache to learn how these talented professionals can support your practice.