I have heard a lot of reasons why someone can't go paperless. Some of them are valid for that particular person- however many more of the reasons are based on misinformation. Well we all know how much therapists don't like cognitive distortions! Here are some of the myths and realities about counselors going paperless in their therapy practice:
Myth #1: It is too complicated. When you start to get into the logistics and questions about going paperless it can seem incredibly complicated. There are a lot of options, and proper evaluation requires a level of technical comfort that you may or may not have. However, the reality is that our documentation gets more complicated every year- should I file claims electronically? Am I a HIPAA provider? How do I type HCFAs or superbills for my clients if I don't do insurance? And on and on. Reality: There are practice management systems built from the grand up for what we do. They were built by therapists or with therapists consulting on every step in the process. Their only goal is to build a system that is painless and easy for therapists AKA: nontechnical people to operate.
Myth #2: It is too time consuming. Reality: You can save SO much time with a good practice management system. You fill in the clients name once and whatever you print will automatically have their information. You want to print out a superbill, receipt, or hcfa- simply put in a date range and the system will fill in all the information you already collected. Client need to sign a release? No faxing, waiting, mailing, returning, or coming up with a special time to meet- they simply log into the system and sign it electronically.
Myth #3: I'll be stuck in front of the computer for hours if I go paperless. Reality: Most therapists I know love their job- and hate the paperwork. Paperless offices mean no cramped fingers, being able to read your progress notes for years to come, no double-entry, easily print out material, secure access to client files in the case of an emergency 24/7 from any internet connected computer. I have found that going paperless saves me hours of work on a weekly basis.
Myth #4: Paper files are more secure. Reality: I worked in a nonprofit where we accidently locked the keys in... we used a butter knife to bend open the cabinet in about 3 minutes, then bent it back and continued to use it. To be honest, it wasn't until years later when I starting my own progress that the reality of that experience really set in. Local nonprofits have had years of data destroyed by fire and water damage, people's medical records have been lost, stolen, misplaced, misfiled, etc. While it may feel more secure- we all know that feelings may not be reality.
Myth #5: Electronic files are easier to hack than my paper folders. Reality: If someone can gain physical access by breaking in with a rock (or a butter knife)- it isn't more secure. Remember, these systems are developed by geeks who understand all the ways that information can be secured- they can talk about encryption, dual authentication, secure socket layering and the like. The average person can easily access my paper folder- it doesn't take ANY specialized knowledge- just simple brute force.
Myth #6: It is just easier to find information in paper format. Reality: Change is hard and uncomfortable. It can be a transition to change the way we do things. However, the systems available today are pretty incredible- and built for therapists and the way that we think. In addition, computers provide checks and balances to help you avoid missing progress notes, missed billing, and more.
Myth #7: My clients won't feel comfortable. Reality: Clients are used to their records going paperless and being accessed over the web. In fact, I have to remind clients about security when they asked me to email information that shouldn't be shared in that manner! Clients love being able to transmit their personal information and paperwork to me prior to the first session. I feel this is a part of rapport building and one reason why my no-show rate is incredibly low.
Myth #8: I can keep my clients information more secure. Reality: The reality is that for most private practitioneers- we just don't have the resources to keep things at the highest security level. We don't have a safe, bolted to the floor.
Myth #9: Going paperless will be more expensive: Reality: Therapists increase their income by 20% in their first year of taking credit cards. I've been able to decrease my unpaid session rate and increase my annual income without spending considerably more time on paperwork.
Convinced? Nope- that is ok! We all decide what works best for our practice. However, check out my next post 10 signs you need to go paperless- to see if you pass the "I never have to go paperless" test!
ZynnyMe: "A request for cognitive behavioral coaching that allows your business and clinical decisions to be based on truth."