Opening a Speech Therapy Telepractice: What You Need to Know

From improved patient timelines to streamlined communication, telemedicine offers practitioners and the people they treat numerous benefits. Due to technological advances and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and other health care professionals are using telemedicine to treat patients. That makes telepractice a viable option for speech language pathologists (SLPs), who don’t necessarily need to see patients in person. 

So, what do you need to open your very own speech therapist telepractice or transition into SLP telepractice? Let’s take a look at a few different things to consider.

A majority of the information included on this page was gathered from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website and is for informational purposes only. 

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Why Treat Clients Using Telemedicine?

While a number of  SLP career options involve working at schools, care facilities and other settings, you don’t always have to treat patients in person. You can work remotely depending on your patient’s needs and plan of care. But why use telemedicine? 

For one, it may be a more convenient option for your speech therapy clients, potentially reducing the number of missed sessions and providing scheduling flexibility. They can attend virtual visits from the comfort of their own home—no getting stuck in traffic on the way to appointments or sitting in the waiting room. 

On the SLP front, telepractice may allow you to gain access to a greater patient pool. With the use of video conferencing technology, you can connect with patients located miles away from you and even treat people in areas where there’s limited speech language pathologists and resources.

Another plus is that telepractice may allow you to reduce operation costs. Opening your own private practice usually means renting an office and hiring staff, which can add up. But if you choose to operate an SLP telepractice, you don’t need office staff or even an office—a suitable place in your home can suffice. Like the patients you treat, you can cut down on gas money, since you don’t have to drive to and from your place of work every day. In other words, you may be able save more of that hard-earned SLP salary for yourself.

And of course, with COVID-19 cases rising in some parts on the country, reducing contagion is a top priority. With a telepractice, there’s no risk of passing any infection to your patients or having them pass it to you.

Starting a Speech Pathology Telepractice

From marketing to getting paid, there are a few things you should know before opening your private telepractice. In the next few sections, we’ll cover:

  • What qualifications you need
  • How to set up your telepractice
  • How to get paid by clients’ insurance
  • How to spread the word about your new telepractice

Ready to become a telepractice SLP? Let’s dive in.

Speech Therapist Telepractice Qualifications

When it comes to opening a telepractice, it is just like opening a brick-and-mortar practice. You still need SLP certification, among other things. Here’s the full list of requirements:

Some states have additional requirements, and you may need to obtain a license from the state you practice in. But after becoming a certified speech therapist, you’re ready for the next steps.

4 Steps to Set Up Your SLP Telepractice

So, how do you open a telepractice? Here are some basic steps to consider according to ASHA:

  1. Familiarize yourself with ASHA’S guidelines on telepractice.
  2. Choose a video conferencing platform.
  3. Find or create digital resources.
  4. Walk your clients through the process.

Familiarize yourself with ASHA’s guidelines on telepractice

Understanding telepractice laws and licensure requirements is important. Different states have different regulations when it comes to telepractice—some require licensure and others don’t. Make sure you are complying with laws for the state in which you are licensed to practice. For more information, refer to ASHA’s state-by-state guide on telepractice regulations and licensure policy [PDF, 758 KB], last updated in July 2020. 

Choose a Video Conferencing Platform

Zoom? Skype? FaceTime? The first step in setting up your telepractice SLP is choosing the right video conferencing software. If you’re concerned about patient privacy, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Zoom are HIPAA-compliant options. To ensure extra privacy, set up password protection for each session. 

Whatever video conferencing software you choose, look out for these basic features:

  • Webcam sharing. This lets you and your clients see each other and replicate the same interaction you’d have in person.
  • Screen sharing. This lets you share materials directly via your device screen.
  • Interactive features. These enable onscreen drawing and shared keyboard and mouse control, so your client can participate.

Of course, you’ll also need a working microphone and a stable internet connection so you can communicate seamlessly with your clients. Do a few test calls with family or friends to make sure everything’s working properly.

Find or Create Digital Resources

Another benefit of telepractice? The numerous amount of materials and activities available online. Through screen sharing with your client, you can use these resources to improve reading comprehension, articulation, and more. 

Some resources for younger SLP clients include PBS Kids and ABCya!. Other options for kids and teens are ReadWorks and Everyday Speech. These websites feature games, reading passages, and curriculum designed to help with speech language pathology. 

Of course, you can always create your own digital curriculum. For example, you might want to upload some YouTube videos to help your clients practice, or grab reading material from Project Gutenberg. If you’re working with adults, they may benefit from using online articles, stories, or websites as part of their lessons. Just remember to keep it engaging.

Walk Your Clients Through the Process.

If you’re working with children or teens, chances are they’ll have an idea of how to use video conferencing software. Still, it’s important to provide your clients with simple and clear instructions or even a video demo showing how your telepractice SLP lesson will work, regardless of their comfort level with tech. 

Do they need to sign up for the software? Is there a password for the session? What devices can they use? You can answer these and other questions in an email or video, or simply have a phone call with them to discuss it. Your clients will have a much better experience if they know what they’re doing, and so will you.

Reimbursements from Telepractice Clients

Let’s move on to finances. How do telepractices get paid

Many states require health insurance plans to cover telepractice services that would be reimbursable if provided face-to-face. But it’s a good idea to find out for sure what an insurance plan will cover before moving ahead. 

Under normal circumstances, Medicare doesn’t cover SLP services. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Medicare has announced it will temporarily cover SLP telepractice services from March 21, 2020 through the end of the public health emergency

While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) encourage state Medicaid agencies to cover telepractice, each agency makes its own choice based on the requirements in that state. You can find more information on state telepractice laws on the ASHA website. 

Of course, when it comes to private insurance, each plan is different. Again, some states require private insurance plans to cover telepractice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean SLP services will be reimbursed.

If you’re unsure what your clients’ plan will cover, it’s worth calling the insurance company to ask about telepractice reimbursement. Specifically, ask which telepractice services are covered, what provider types they’ll accept, and which service codes to use when billing.

Market Your Speech Language Pathology Telepractice Online

We live in the age of digital marketing. That means there’s plenty you can do to promote your speech therapy telepractice right from your own home. 

A key component of most digital marketing strategies is an engaging website, and that’s especially true for a telepractice, since your website will replace a brick-and-mortar office. To attract telemedicine patients, build a website that’s visually appealing and easy-to-understand, with strong calls to action. You might want to add a virtual chat bot or a link to online appointment booking, so visitors can quickly get in touch with you.

You can also gain exposure from sites like Zocdoc: a platform designed to help people find doctors and specialists in their area. Millions of potential clients visit Zocdoc every month, so if you’re not listed on it, you may want to consider it.

But with the many digital marketing strategies you can employ, don’t overlook the old, tried-and-true methods. Client referrals are still one of the surest ways to attract new business. If patients are impressed with your service, they’ll spread the word. Make it easy for them to refer you by ensuring they know about your website and have your email address. Of course, to establish a referral base, you first have to establish a clientele.

Is a Speech Pathologist Telepractice Right for You?

Now that you know the basics for opening an SLP telepractice, one question remains: is this the right path for you? Before deciding, you’ll want to do a thorough risk assessment. 

Operating your own practice can potentially be riskier than working for someone else, as the stability of your income depends mostly on you and your marketing efforts. 

Then again, opening a telepractice can be cheaper than renting or buying a physical business space, and if you gain enough clients, you can make more than you would working for someone else or operating your own brick-and-mortar practice. 

Plus, you have flexibility. If your telepractice business is slow, you can always work somewhere else for half the week and service your telemedicine clients for the remaining half. Then, if business picks up for your private practice, you can make the switch to doing that full time.

In the end, only you can decide if the benefits outweigh the risks and if you can make telepractice work for you.

Information last updated August 2020

Sponsored Online Speech Pathology Programs

Sponsored Program

Earn your Online Master’s in Speech Pathology from Emerson College

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • No GRE Required for all 2021 Cohorts
  • 5-term and 9-term study options
  • Now accepting applications

NYU Campus

Sponsored Program

Earn Your Master’s in Communicative Sciences and Disorders Online at NYU Steinhardt

  • Live, online classes of no more than 15 students
  • Prepare for SLP licensure from anywhere in the country using a state-of-the-art online platform
  • Now accepting applications

Sponsored Program

Earn your Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders Online from Baylor University

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • Full-time and part-time options available
  • Same standards as the on-campus program, which has 50+ years educating SLPs
  • Now accepting applications