Starting a private practice comes with many steps. You have to think about everything from office space to insurance credentialing to finding the right staff. Each one of these steps comes with its own plethora of paperwork.

Getting your practice off the ground is no easy feat and trust us when we say you don’t want anything weighing you down as you’re trying to grow — especially not file cabinets filled with paperwork.

Though creating a paperless practice may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be — especially if you are intentional about creating a paper-free office from the beginning.

Whether you’re already committed to creating a paperless office or you’re on the fence about letting go of your treasured file cabinets, read on to learn what benefits a paperless office holds and how you can go paperless with a few easy steps.

Why You Should Build a Paperless Private Practice

Deciding to go paperless is one of the best decisions you can make for your private practice as you start out. Not only does it help reduce overhead costs (no more endless trips to office supply stores), but it also helps you save time by simplifying your office procedures.

Benefits of going paperless include:

  • Increased office space: Reducing paperwork will increase office space quite literally. Instead of finding ways to store your ever-increasing paperwork, you’ll end up with more room to dedicate to your clients.
  • A cleaner office space: No more paperwork lying around means you’ll erase the visual clutter all around you, allowing you to focus better.
  • Limitless access: With the right system in place, you can access your files from anywhere in the world as long as you have a secure Internet connection.
  • Peace of mind: Paperless files are often stored in the cloud, which means they are protected from both physical damage, such as fire or flood, and physical theft. Also, most practice management systems (like TheraNest) have the added benefit of ensuring that your files are secure and encrypted.
  • Saving money: Paper and ink don’t come free (or cheap). By going paperless you’re helping eliminate some of your overhead costs, which means more money in the bank for you.
  • Saving time: Digital notes are not only searchable (meaning you can find what you need faster), but they are also legible. You no longer have to spend time trying to decipher illegible handwriting from your employees, your clients, or even yourself.
  • Going green: You’ll play a part in helping to save the environment by putting less of a demand on paper manufacturing and disposal.

Now that we’ve discussed the major reasons why you should go paperless, let’s look at how to do it.

1. Plan Your Process

The right process is critical to going paperless in your practice. Even if you have the right tools but you and your fellow therapists, co-workers, or staff don’t follow a process, it won’t be as productive as it should be. Each practice is going to be different, but setting some key standards can help you transition smoothly into a paperless practice.

This process becomes easier when you are just starting out. If you make the initial commitment to build a paper-free practice, it makes it simpler to create processes that ensure your office will be paperless as you grow and expand. Instead of having to relearn a new way of doing things, you can onboard your employees with your paper-free system — minimizing your chances of reverting back to paper.

2. Invest in a Good Practice Management Software

The first step in creating a successful paperless private practice, or just a successful private practice in general, is investing in a good practice management system. Your practice management system is going to be the backbone of your office, you’ll use it for everything from going paperless to scheduling to client intake.

When selecting a practice management software to go paperless, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this software system allow you to upload client files of any type?
  • Is electronic storage space limited?
  • Can the software be securely accessed from anywhere from multiple devices?
  • Are there limitations set for accessing notes according to staff position?
  • Is the software easy to use for you and your staff?

These questions are a good starting point to determine whether the practice management system you are selecting will both help you become (and stay) a paperless practice and help you run a better day-to-day practice. Remember, choosing to go paperless is not a one and done scenario. You have to actively commit to being a paperless therapy office every day to maintain your system. Having a practice management software you trust and enjoy using helps you do this.

Here are some key features you want your Electronic Health Record (EHR) and practice management software to have to help you go paperless:

  • Cloud based access to ensure you access to important information regardless of where you are
  • Intuitive appointment scheduling
  • Automatic text, phone, and email reminders to help you save time and reduce no-shows
  • Ability to securely email important financial documents like statements and superbills from right within the software
  • Ready to use, well-made templates for note taking
  • Simple custom form builder to allow you to customize your note templates
  • Bank-level encryption and security for your peace of mind
  • Mobile app access for when you are on the go
  • Ability to accept signatures electronically on important documentation
  • Unlimited document storage so you can take your paper files into the digital age
  • A client portal so you can easily and securely communicate with your clients

TheraNest offers all of the features above and many more.

3. Use a Tablet

When you need to record your session notes, laptops can be cumbersome. It can feel insensitive to be typing away at your computer as your clients are talking to you. Since you’re making an effort to go paperless, you don’t want to use a notebook, either. Plus, it’s easy to lose notebooks and forget to enter progress notes in a timely manner when writing everything by hand.

A better solution? A tablet.

Tablets are easy on the environment, convenient for recording notes, and don’t take up a lot of space. Plus, they can be connected to the Internet, making them the perfect vehicle for accessing your cloud-based practice management software.

While you can use a tablet to take your notes, there are also other powerful ways to use tablets in your private practice.

Tablets are great for client intake as well. Clients can fill out intake forms directly on the tablet, which saves you and your office time and money. During check in, hand a tablet to your client and get them to fill out their own information digitally. When a client inputs their own details directly, there’s less risk that you or your staff will transcribe information incorrectly. TheraNest has a great Client Portal that allows for electronic intake form completion and submission.

Your clients can also read and sign important paperwork directly on a tablet as well, such forms include consent, privacy policy, and office policies (i.e., penalties for not showing up to appointments). Having this information on your tablet eliminates the need to print out endless copies for all of your clients.

4. Purchase a Good Scanner

You’ll need a scanner to empower your mission to go paperless. A scanner will allow you to digitize your office by transferring all of your existing paperwork into the cloud. You can also use a scanner for intake purposes. When collecting a client’s insurance card and identification, don’t make a hard copy of it — scan it and save it to your digital library for easy recall and a paper-free private practice.

Not sure which scanner to buy?

If you have the budget, consider going with the Fujitsu ScanSnap Image Scanner. If you’re on a tighter budget, Brother Printer Document Scanner is also a good option.

Moving Forward

Building a paperless private practice is not as hard as you may think. With the continuing advancement of technology, going paperless is more feasible than ever.

The best time to implement a no paper policy is when your practice is just starting out. You have the unique opportunity presented by a  blank slate — neither you nor your office is stuck in its ways just yet.

Choosing to go the completely paperless route has many benefits, but remember it’s not all or nothing. Even if you’re not ready to give up your beloved paper files, invest in a good practice management software so you can at least begin taking notes online or streamlining your scheduling (and removing the dreaded and often lost appointment cards).

Taking baby steps to get your office up to speed with current technology is always a worthwhile investment and will help you reduce your own workload tremendously!

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Michelle Khalid

Michelle Khalid works as the Digital Marketing and Content Strategist for TheraNest. When she’s not writing about how TheraNest can help therapists build better, more profitable practices, you can find her with a good book at one of the many coffee shops around Birmingham, AL. She’s excited to be working for a company that is passionate about fulfilling therapists’ needs—learn more about how TheraNest can help streamline your practice.

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