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Systems, Processes, G-Suite & HIPAA In Private Practice | TPOT 134

The Practice of Therapy Podcast with Gordon Brewer

Release Date: 06/22/2020

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In this episode, Gordon dives deep into the systems and processes it takes to run a private practice. No matter what size your practice is, you will want things to run as smoothly as possible. A few ways to ensure your practice is running smoothly is by automating specific administrative tasks. Plus, you’ll need to consider where and how you are storing all your documents and information. Later, Gordon dives deep into the benefits of using G-Suite and how to ensure your practice stays HIPAA compliant.

Systems and Processes

Systems and processes are what happens when you receive a client’s call until the time you discharge them. Particularly on the back-end in terms of the clinical documentation and the administrative functions. For example, when you get a new client, you’ll probably give them some paperwork or forms. We need to do that, just legally and ethically have them sign forms, understand their HIPAA privacy policy, understand their fees, and the risk involved in doing therapy. Especially with teletherapy, our clients need to understand the risk of doing virtual therapy.

In addition, we have that whole moving piece for those of us with insurance-based practices. We are checking benefits for their insurance and then filing the claims. So, when I say systems and processes, it means all of those things that occur outside the therapy room in terms of documentation and administrative functions. When starting in private practice, all of those things can be overwhelming, particularly in the beginning. A lot of people are not sure how to pull all that together. Regardless of the size of your practice, you want those things to run smoothly.

Divide Your Tasks

So the first thing that I think is helpful is to divide things into what I think of as clinical functions versus administrative functions. So, you’ve got your progress notes and session notes, your treatment plans, your discharge plans, all of that kind of documentation that we keep for our patients. Those are the clinical functions, and that’s the stuff that we really have to focus on keeping protected and confidential. These things are commonly referred to as personal health information. The administrative side includes tracking things like where your money is coming in and coming out from. Plus, it would help if you had a marketing plan and a business plan. Those things are all administrative functions.

HIPAA

HIPAA comes in around our clinical functions. A lot of times, we can make HIPAA much more complicated than it is. If you want to keep paper records, which there’s nothing wrong with that, then HIPAA doesn’t apply other than keeping it under a double lock. With analog paper records, you can quickly run out of space. I have moved to pretty much paperless office now and any documents we get, we either scan them and convert them, or we put them into an electronic health record system. Also, we use our Google Drive, which is HIPAA secure. I make it a policy within my practice that the only thing that I’m going to communicate with a client by email is just something around appointment times and changing appointments and sending out initial paperwork. I’m not going to use email to address clinical issues as I would in a session. So in that sense, you’re keeping things a little more private.

Using G-Suite

You cannot make your regular Gmail account HIPAA complaint. Instead, you need a G-Suite account. G-Suite allows you to change the email name from @gmail.com to @yourcounselingpractice.com. Plus, when someone emails you, it is handled through the Gmail app, it’s just like using the free Gmail app. Also, you get the benefit of having HIPAA secure emails. G-Suite allows you to create all sorts of cool things with it. Google Drive is one of my favorites because it comes with cloud storage. Cloud storage is much better and more secure than storing stuff on your computer. If you’re storing things on your computer, there is always the potential for someone to hack into it. Also, you could lose your computer, or it could crash. However, if stored in the cloud, you will always have access to it, and you will always have a backup. Plus, Google’s security will be better than anything you can put on your computer; they depend on it.

Most people are familiar with Google Docs and Google Sheets. The biggest nugget for private practice owners is Google Forms. It allows you to track how many sessions you have per week and the average session rate. This dashboard can be done on a Google Form – it will automatically put the information from the form to the sheet. This way, the data can be manipulated. If you get creative, there are lots of different ways you can set up systems and processes using Google G-Suite.

Electronic Health Records System

An EHR is a way to go! That way, you can file all your claims electronically. Plus, it makes things a lot more automated. Most EHR systems will track the money you make from clients. However, it doesn’t necessarily have a function to track business expenses. Instead, you’ll want an accounting and bookkeeping system. Keep in mind that QuickBooks is not HIPAA secure. Therefore, do not put any health information or client information in the accounting system. When you have a client, do not write their name in the accounting system, write that you received payment from a client. You can use your client’s name in an EHR or on Google G-Suite.

Being transparent… Some of the resources below use affiliate links which simply means we receive a commission if you purchase using the links, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for using the links!

Resources

TherapyNotes.com - Use the coupon code "GORDON" to get 2 months free.

4th of July Brighter Vision Sale

Roy Huggins on Technology, HIPAA and The Financial Side of Private Practice | TPOT Podcast 007

Rob Reinhardt | Electronic Health Records (EHR) In Private Practice | TPOT Podcast 028

Rob’s EHR Reviews

Easy Safe Harbor From HIPAA Breach Notification: Now on Your Computer and Smartphone

Racism Resources

G Suite for Therapists | The E-Course (Use Code JUNE2020)

The Session Note Helper System

Free Google G-Suite Hacks Sheet

Join the G-Suite for Therapists Users Group

Money Matters in Private Practice | The Course

Cool Resources

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Meet Gordon Brewer, MEd, LMFT