Before you say anything, don’t look at your office and the file cabinets. Just because you have files, doesn’t mean you can’t go paperless! If you have a private practice or a group practice, you can start now and deal with your file cabinets later. Don’t let scanning and such deter you. Do that when you have the time and energy. Just start from now on using your system for being paperless. And if you are starting a private practice, now is the time to go paperless. You won’t have files to deal with and you will start off with this excellent business practice with ease.
You can go paperless in two ways - the DIY model and the practice management system model. For both of these methods you need a computer and a scanner.
For the DIY model you also need an external hard drive. You have to back up your files on the external hard drive, make sure that the information is encrypted (encryption is the process of taking your files and making it unreadable to anyone except those with a key). Just hitting the save button on your computer is not enough. Also, don’t forget that the external hard drive has to be protected as well. Which means you don’t want to leave it in the same place as your computer. Information is always safer if stored in two separate places. So let’s say you choose the DIY model it might look something like this:
- A new client comes in and fills out information and you scan it to their file (unless you are emailing using encryption)
- You type your notes or use a handwriting recognition system to write your notes
- You save your notes and back them up to the hard drive
- You scan any incoming documents and save them, backing them up to the hard drive
- You still have to create all of your reports and superbills on your own
- You still will track your finances with your current system
Practice management systems are all the buzz right now. It is a cost, but it can save you time and money since the time you spend backing up your files and organizing them can be used elsewhere. There are many great systems out there. One that we love is Argonaut but you can try others too. Essentially though, you go online to type your notes and they automatically encrypt them for you and have your information backed up and stored in a remote location. Also, many of these systems feature the ability to create reports and superbills with ease. You can also have your forms online in a way that clients can provide an e-signature. So if you go with a practice management system it might look like this
- Your clients can log on and fill out forms and update their information at anytime
- You log onto the system, type your notes and log out (encryption and backing up is done by the system)
- You find reports through your system - no more separate tracking
You have to pick the system that works within the needs of your business. It is a matter of how much time and money you have to go into this and that will determine how much time and money you save coming out of the process. Don't be afraid to ask for technology help. You may not want to take the time to learn how to encrypt, deal with a back up hard drive and all that jazz. That is ok. Or you may feel like that will work best for you. Either way, going paperless doesn’t just save trees (making squirrels and birds across America very happy) but it also saves your sanity! And, you can always repurpose those file cabinets for something else. Any ideas?