Guest post by Maelisa Hall, Psy.D.
So you’ve decided to finally take the plunge and transition from paper to electronic records? Congratulations! Your administrative work will be more streamlined and less heavy (Literally!).
However, that doesn’t mean you can push a button and magically everything will come together. If you’ve been maintaining paper records in your practice, consider the following tips, for they can save you a lot of time and headaches before you make the change.
1. Try out as many private practice EHRs as you can with free trials or phone tours. This will help you determine whether or not electronic records will meet your needs before you make the big commitment.
2. Outline your intake workflow. Usually, this is the area that causes the most confusion in the beginning. So, take 30 minutes to write out the process in which your new clients go through. What forms do they complete? Do you write them up together? Do you exchange emails? How do you both sign documents? Do you spend time after your initial session reviewing forms or completing assessments?
Having a clear understanding of your current process will help you decide which private practice EHR platform will best meet your needs.
3. Make sure your paper files are organized so you can easily transfer things over. Do a review of your files ahead of time. Schedule one to two hours, depending on how many files you have, to make sure everything is complete and up to date. Putting in the time now will better prepare you for the transition and it will make logistics much easier, especially if you decide to scan any current documents and upload them to your new EHR.
4. Decide whether you’ll have a “start date” or just upload everything and trash the paper. If you choose to simply keep all your old paper files and start with the EHR on a particular date, print out a sheet that clarifies something like, All records electronic as of xx/yy/zz, and put that disclaimer in your existing paper files. And after that date, store all files electronically. If you want to get rid of all your paper stacks, scan all your current files into the EHR and then shred everything. Depending on how many files you have and how long you’ve been seeing those clients, this may take a long time. However, this method can potentially save a lot of frustration down the line.
5. Decide if you’ll scan everything or have certain things (like drawings or narratives) maintained in paper files. You may choose to ditch your large file cabinet but keep a small, locked drawer for items that you want to keep confidential but not maintained as part of the client record.
6. Inform your clients of the change. Your clients have a right to know how you keep their records. Most clients will not be too concerned, but it’s respectful to notify them if you’re making a transition and to open the door for any questions or concerns. This is especially important if you choose a system that integrates scheduling and appointment reminders.
7. Allow yourself extra time when you first start. Using an EHR will inevitably make things more streamlined and simple, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy in the beginning. You will likely feel as though certain things take longer at first, but after about a month that should dissipate.
8. Have the EHR’s helpdesk information easily available so you can quickly problem solve. It’s best to plan ahead for any potential problems. These are often things that are minor and fixable, but unfamiliar to you as you learn the new system. Having a life-line will alleviate some of the stress of the transition.
9. Remember what you did on paper. When you find yourself confused about a situation, ask yourself, What did I do when I used paper? And go from there.
Above all, be open to trying out new ways of organizing. Change is scary, but also allows for growth and new possibilities.
In my experience, therapists who are open to adjusting their current workflows to improve efficiency are happier with their administrative work compared to those who decide to do things the way they’ve always been done. So, let go, try something new! Reach out for support and enjoy all the benefits technology has to offer.
About the Author:
Maelisa Hall, Psy.D. specializes in teaching therapists how to connect with their paperwork so it’s more simple and more meaningful. The result? Rock solid documentation every therapist can be proud of! Check out her free online Private Practice Paperwork Crash Course, and get tips on improving your documentation today.