Is It Good for Psychotherapists To Go Paperless?
There has really been a lot of talk these days about going paperless. At some department stores, you can request that your receipt be emailed to you, and when you check into a hotel, no longer are you presented with a packet of materials, including everything from property maps to detailed company policies. It truly does seem that the people in this country are finally jumping on board and actually giving the environment more than a passing thought.
However, how can this come into play with your private practice? Well, the answers are fairly simple, and the benefits are practically endless. For starters, it can save your practice money, and regardless of how much revenue is already generated, a decline in office costs can always be appreciated. But is paper actually all that expensive? The answer typically resides in how much an office uses, but don’t forget to throw in other factors, such as ink and administrative costs.
Another thing that can be saved is time, which is often of much more importance than things of a monetary value. Time can be saved in a myriad of ways by going paperless, especially when it comes to screening patients, completing intake and categorizing stacks of information in filing cabinets situated throughout the office. Again, throw in the administrative responsibilities that are involved in all of these tasks. Can you already see how this time saved could be better appropriated?
One last benefit to consider is safety. While it is typically standard practice that most offices consistently take the required steps to backup important files, and to ensure that the date is protected, the fact still remains that this paperwork is still vulnerable to multiple types of safety breaches and damage. Let’s once again not forget about office personnel required for organization. Ready to ditch the paper yet?
So, now that a slew of reasons have been established as to why it makes perfect sense to go paperless, let’s explore several ways to incorporate these ideas into the day-to-day procedures of your private practice.
1. Begin Using an EHR Software
Implementing an electronic health records (EHR) software is a fantastic first step to going paperless. This can incorporate taking therapy notes electronically, scheduling and reminding patients of appointments and billing procedures. There are many different types of this software available on the market, so be sure that you select the one that is most appropriate for the particulars of your practice. Plus, if you have a smaller practice and can meet a few guidelines, some companies may even offer portions of this software at no charge.
2. Start Using an Online Faxing Program
There are now plenty of Internet-based fax programs available, and this can really cut back on the paper that is used in an office of any kind. Surely you have been victim to that fax that just never seems to end, shooting out dozens of pages and materials when you only need page three. With online faxing, you can even digitally store your incoming faxes, ensuring that you can access the files whenever necessary. This can also provide a great method of organization for both incoming and outgoing faxes, which can often even be sorted by date or other methods of formatting. This means no more cluttered stacks of faxes, bulging folders or creaky file cabinets with rusted drawers.
3. Look into Online Tools for Patient Screenings
When a patient first enters a private practice, there seems to be forms for just about everything. Of course, the receipt of all of this information is absolutely essential, but sometimes, you just have to wonder if there is a better way to do things. When it comes to screening for mental health conditions, there absolutely is! Stop handing your patients a stack of questionnaires and surveys, and begin using electronic screenings, where that clipboard can be replaced with a computer tablet. All of the forms will also be organized and stored, which can save time in administration, as well.
4. Buy a Good Scanner
Once you are on the fast-track to storing and accessing most of your files in a digital format, it only makes sense to begin scanning in all new files so that everything is now digital. Scanning in your documents will also organize them, along with the rest of your files in digital formats, making it even easier than ever before to have all of your patients’ secure data in one place. When it comes to purchasing the best scanner, definitely look for a sheet-fed machine, capable of scanning pages one-at-a-time or in multiple batches. Next, be sure to properly access your daily work flow, and find a scanner that can handle that load, while still being priced competitively.
While the goal is to cut out as much paper use as possible, it isn’t realistic to assume that you can stop using paper entirely. However, when the use of paper is an absolute must, you can offset this occasional usage by setting up a good system for recycling. The first step when beginning any recycling venture is to ensure that everyone in the office is on board. Begin shredding and then recycling any pages that you possibly can, always keeping in mind your initial efforts for going paperless. One important thing to keep in mind is to always do as much as you can electronically, whether it be taking phone messages or completing a patient’s intake.
Now that you are on your way to going paper-free, you can look forward to so many things for your private practice. You will have more time to actually spend with your patients, rather than on paperwork. You can think of a dozen ways to invest the money saved on paper, ink and administration costs back into your practice. Lastly, you can be proud of your part in helping the environment. Can it really get any better than that?