Colleen Crafton, a licensed therapist, has embraced technology to keep her counseling practice growing and running smoothly. She predicts that more and more mental health professionals will overcome their fears this year and start using online tools.
More Convenient & Discrete
Colleen started using Full Slate’s appointment scheduling software when she opened her private practice almost two years ago. She put a button to schedule an appointment at the top of her website. Many of her clients work during the day and appreciate this discrete alternative to calling for an appointment.
According to Colleen, the response from clients has been very positive. “About 80 percent make appointments online on their own,” she says. “A good many find my website and use the online scheduler without me even telling them.”
Her schedule fills up fast, so Colleen blocks out some time to ensure there is room for people who call in need of an urgent appointment. That way she can still fit in clients having a crisis and last-minute referrals from insurance companies.
She encourages current clients to setup a treatment schedule in advance. “At the end of a session, I whip out my iPad, bring up Full Slate, and say, ‘Let’s schedule your next session right now.’ I’ve got clients who are already booked three months out,” Colleen says. “They think, ‘Good heavens, I need to plan ahead or there won’t be any slots left.’”
And she doesn’t have many missed appointments anymore. Colleen added a paragraph at the bottom of the email reminder that’s sent automatically before each appointment. It reinforces her cancellation policy and puts the client on notice that there is a $60 fee for failing to appear. As a result, she’s “decreased no-shows to almost nothing.” On the rare occasion when someone doesn’t show, a flag in the client’s appointment history gives her a heads-ups.
Full Slate’s appointment scheduling software has helped Colleen streamline billing, too. She color-codes appointments based on intake and billing status. “My favorite color is purple – then I know everything is done; the paperwork’s complete, I’ve been paid.”
Just by glancing at her calendar, Colleen can tell if it’s a patient’s first visit and the necessary forms are complete. She can see right on her schedule when a client has made a co-pay through PayPal, and uses the notes field on appointments to keep track of insurance claims and payments. When she emails a client about a co-pay or the balance due, it’s logged in Full Slate’s message history.
Safe & Sound
Although the software has become integral to her practice management, Colleen acknowledges “it’s a new thing for people to see therapists using technology. We have not, as a group, used any kind of online tools.” She thinks fears about hacking and concerns over confidentiality are to blame.
Despite widespread misconceptions, the reality is mental health professionals can use online tools to facilitate health care operations and be HIPAA compliant. There are helpful FAQs posted on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s website clarifying the patient Privacy Rule as it relates to appointment scheduling and reminders. Full Slate has also published a statement to allay concerns about online HIPAA compliance and online scheduling.
Perhaps 2012 will be the year therapists reconcile with technology. Colleen thinks so: “Having online tools like Full Slate easily accessible, more of us will grab hold.”