The Benefits of Electronic Therapy Notes and a Paperless Practice

Are you currently doing all of your session (therapy/clinical) notes with pen and paper but are curious about the benefits of electronic therapy notes (and paperless records in general)?

Perhaps you’re not convinced you need the other functionality that typically comes with practice management/EHR software but are curious about the benefits of moving away from pen and paper notes.

Indeed, the entire mental health software market is on an upward trend, with more and more practices moving toward a paperless practice.

This article will consider the benefits of electronic session notes and records while addressing some common myths around the topic, too.

Benefits of Electronic Therapy Notes and a Paperless Practice

Benefits of Electronic Session Notes

1. Saves Time in Your Day +  More Convenience

Electronic notes save time through several different avenues:

  • Eliminates the Need to Transfer Your Notes At The End of Sessions. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could eliminate the extra hour at the end of your day to transfer your notes? Are you in the habit of leaving this until tomorrow?

Instead, you can either type your notes from the beginning or, if you prefer not to use a laptop, you can take handwritten notes via a stylus and tablet with a compatible touchscreen. 

You can even convert your handwritten notes to text afterward if you struggle with legible handwriting.

Your notes are then automatically stored in a secure practice management (EHR) software, conveniently stored and tagged in one platform.

Some therapists also rely on a voice-to-text app and then dictate their notes at the end of each session, which is still typically faster than typing them out. 

Tip of the Day: Some therapists find that templates provide a streamlined way to approach note-taking; alternatively, some EHR software solutions, such as Yocale, have custom form-builders that allow you to build custom forms in just a few minutes. You can even annotate on them.

  • Remote Accessibility = Greater Convenience. With cloud-based, EHR software, you can access your notes, schedule and anything else about your practice from anywhere in the world. 
  • No Need to File or Back-Up Your Notes. If you’re currently writing notes by hand, you’re likely either storing them in file cabinets or scanning them and then storing them on a hard drive, both of which add more time to your day. With EHR software, you can skip this step.

2. Better Overall Practice Management 

There are numerous ways that electronic therapy notes can facilitate better overall practice management. Here are a few examples:

  • Electronic Session Notes Are More Legible and Organized. Many health professionals find that electronic notes are much more legible than their own handwriting, which makes things a lot simpler when referring back to your notes. Electronic notes are also more organized (and are even time-stamped).

Furthermore, if perception is reality, electronic therapy notes also appear more professional whenever you have to share your records. This becomes especially critical in the event that complaints are ever filed against you.

  • Greater Security. While you may currently be storing your notes in a locked filing cabinet (or even backing them up on an external hard drive like a USB), there are still security risks at play here, including the fact that ink can fade over time, there could be a fire or notes could even be misplaced (perhaps by cleaners). 

While cloud-based, EHR software can go down on very rare occasions (a software like Yocale has 99.9% uptime), data is often backed up via multiple data centres. Yocale, for instance, is hosted on what is regarded as the most secure server in the world – the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. This platform has at least 40 backup data centres hosting data using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256 encryption.

  • Less Clutter. Do you have a stack of legal pads in your office? One of the benefits of electronic therapy notes (and digital documents in general) is that paper clutter is minimized. This is especially critical for smaller or solo practices without a lot of space – especially as your practice grows! 
  • Provides Access to Data. With Yocale, data can be pulled from your client forms, offering access to data that wouldn’t otherwise be possible if you were using paper-based forms.
  • EHR Software Can Be Free. There is a common misconception that EHR software is expensive and that the file cabinet method is one of the most affordable options. While it’s true that many software solutions on the market are expensive, it’s not true of all of them. 

(While we are certainly biased, Yocale is one of most affordable practice management software on the market; you can start out entirely free and add functionality as you go).

  • More Environmentally Friendly. To put this into context, printing a Sunday edition of the New York Times’ requires 75,000 trees. Between intake forms, questionnaires, notebooks, receipts and a variety of other paper documentation, health practices contribute to a significant amount of paper waste every year. The good news is that mental health scheduling software can help.

Benefits of Electronic Forms, Records and Documents in General

While we have focused on electronic therapy notes in particular, mental health practices also deal with a lot of other paper-based documentation, from intake forms to questionnaires to receipts. 

If you’re considering making the switch to electronic therapy notes, you’re likely thinking about an EHR software with other capabilities such as billing, forms, etc. Here are a few use-cases:

  • Enables a Digital Intake Process for More Time Savings and Convenience. An EHR software with forms functionality can send automated intake forms at the time of booking, which the client can then complete online. This allows for a more streamlined practice and more convenience for all parties. 

It’s also possible to take advantage of digital intake forms outside of self-made bookings. In other words, the provider also has the flexibility to send forms to the clients on his or her own as well.

  • Allows for Digital Questionnaires/Homework. Similarly, form-builder technology means that therapists can send questionnaires and any homework to clients digitally, which they can also complete online.
  • Digital Receipts. With an EHR software, you can simply send a digital copy to clients (which they can then pay online).
  • Facilitates an Easier Tax Season. Because electronic notes typically also come with other features like invoicing/billing functionality, tax season becomes a lot easier as all of your financials are stored in one platform.

See why many professionals are moving toward a paperless practice.

Wrapping It Up

With more time savings, convenience and better overall practice management, many mental health professionals and private practices are moving toward electronic therapy notes and a paperless practice in general.

With online booking functionality (which can help build your caseload while keeping your practice competitive) or the ability to save cards on file and send appointment reminders (therein reducing no-shows), it’s easy to see why many professionals are making the switch to practice management software.

Read more about the benefits of mental health software here

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