For Therapists: My Requirements for a Practice Management System


So, I have been getting a lot of questions lately about how to keep online therapy notes, the best software for therapist treatment planning, etc. There are a ton of options out there, and I have gone through the process of interviewing, beta-testing, and playing with dozens of electronic health record (EHR) that are made for therapists and physicians. 
After both testing, and also using a BAD program for over a year, I learned a lot about how good a practice management system could be, and also how bad it could be. 
Ultimately, going paperless is about more than just taking my therapy practice paperless, it is about streamlining my business, doing more of what I love, and having a profitable business. While everyone's needs for a practice management system or Electronic Health Record are different- this is what I have found to be true for my therapy practice: 
The must-haves: 
  1. Must allow clients to electronically sign paperwork. If I have to keep a separate physical file, or do scanning for everyone who walks into the office- we have a problem ;0) Why? Because scanning, sorting, uploading, labeling, etc. takes a lot of time. 
  2. It must allow clients to complete paperwork/questionnaires online that I can customize. This allows me to develop my intake paperwork online. In a perfect world- clients would complete their basic information and it would auto-fill CMS-1500 forms and other information.
  3. It needs to be secure... I almost forgot to say this because it should be obvious lol... HIPAA compliant, secure, backed up, secure! This means a program that is encrypted, among other things. 
  4. It needs to securely store client's credit card information so I can bill them at the start or close of the session. This feature not only leaves more time in session for work- but it allows me to easily bill for late cancellations or no shows and sets a very clear boundary. (This feature alone more than pays for the other features). While Square and other programs are quite handy- I have found the auto-billing a feature that both the client and I appreciate- it saves us BOTH time! 
  5. Ability to easily print up CMS-1500 with no extra work from me- it needs to all come together in such a way that when I enter treatment plan, diagnosis, etc. in the records I never have to re-enter that information.
  6. I need to be able to securely access this data from my smartphone, laptop, etc.
  7. It needs to leave no, or next to no data on my laptop/smartphone so I am not storing things on my computer if it ever crashed (died) or was stolen.

Optional- but nice: 

  1. Automated reminders for clients (clients love this).
  2. Room scheduling.
  3. Ability to have a front office staff person who can schedule without getting into progress notes and such.
  4. Clients can upload and download files.

I was lucky enough to find a program that has all of the above. Actually, it was partially luck, and partially more than luck- ask me to tell you the story sometime! I have all of the above and LOVE it! Here is what I wish the program I am using had: 

  1. I wish the document/questionnaire maker was easier to work with. It can be a little finicky at times- so I don't find myself making new forms very often ;0)
  2. I wish it looked a little prettier-more modern.
  3. I wish it had a secure messaging system attached to it where clients and I could exchange more secure communication that was automatically added to the client's records.
  4. A secure way to integrate/sync with my regular calendar system- I know this is tricky to do securely.

What about you? What are your requirements for a great practice management system? What could make your business easier to run? Or make your clients feel really taken care of?