Do you remember what it was like when you were planning your shiny new practice? It would, of course, be an efficient, well-organised oasis of calm. There certainly wouldn’t be paperwork cluttering up the place.
Yet, in a matter of months your office is bursting with the stuff. Your in-tray overflows, your filing cabinets creak, and post it notes flutter off your computer screen whenever you walk by.
Does that sound familiar?
All of us struggle with paperwork. As your practice grows, you’ll amass an enormous amount of information, much of it in paper format. This will include client details, such as medical records and clinical notes. You may also have copies of bank and credit card statements, medico-legal reports, receipts, bills, accounting records and CPD records.
Many practitioners are making the move to ‘digital’, by storing all of their important documents on the computer. This is not just out of a desire to cut down on paperwork, removing the clutter and helping the environment.
Therapists also understand the need to cut down on paperwork for ethical reasons.
The ethical requirements for going digital
As you know, you have a duty to keep Information about your clients safe - particularly their address, medical records and clinical notes.
Paper copies put this safety as risk. They may not always be locked away in secure filing cabinets. Perhaps you carry some documents when you’re out and about (on your way to a treatment room, for example), or inadvertently leave them on your desk when other people are around.
One of the best ways to keep information such as client information and clinical notes safe is to enter the information, including clinical notes, straight onto a computer. Of course, you can still take written notes during treatments and so on, but then, you could either type them up or scan them. The originals can then be shredded, or filed securely and removed only when absolutely necessary.
The benefits of going digital
Going digital means that accessing information is much easier and faster. Many processes can be automated such as creating invoices and client letters. Documents can also be easily updated, and linked to other records such as accounts, especially if you use CRM or practice management software (more on this below).
How to go digital
Let’s start with the most crucial documents - client information and clinical notes. There are several ways to go digital.
- You could simply keep your records in a word processing document such as Microsoft Word, saving them in individual client folders to make them easy to access.
- You could consider using note-taking software for your clinical notes.
- Many therapy businesses use practice management software to manage their entire business.
Keeping your digital files secure
Keeping files on a computer ensures that they are in one place, don’t get misplaced, and aren’t left in plain sight of others. However, it doesn’t make them automatically secure.
When you keep information about clients on a computer, you will need to comply with the Data Protection Act. It’s all very straightforward.
Password protection and encryption
Make sure all your computers are password protected. If you receive emails and access documents via your phone, secure that too with a code.
Practice management software is a good way to ensure that files are safe, because it will have robust security systems and should comply with the Data Protection Act. You could also consider encrypting any emails that contain sensitive information.
What do you think about the move to a ‘paperless office’? Let us know.
This post was written by Geoff Simons, Managing Director of the Private Practice Hub, a free business resource site for therapists.