Therapy clinic admin staff

How to Find and Keep Reliable Administrative Staff for Your Therapy Practice

Finding reliable help for your therapy clinic may feel impossible. If you’ve experienced a high turnover rate with administrative staff, you’re not alone. In our experience, this is an unfortunate, yet common issue facing therapy clinics, regardless of size. However, all is not lost. With a bit of careful planning and straightforward hiring protocol, you can make solid connections and create a team of loyal, long-term employees.

Hire Admins Who Know Therapy

No matter the discipline, working in a therapy office can be more complex than some might expect. If you’re hiring people who are familiar with other segments of health care, you should expect that they may not be prepared to work in the therapy world. Other types of medical offices are likely to have had quite different procedures and clientele. 

On the other hand, if you’ve been hiring admins, coders, or billers who do claim to have previously worked in a therapy office, it’s best not to assume they’ll jump right in with no help. After all, your practice and systems are unique.

Observe an Applicant’s Demeanor

Regardless of background, we recommend testing out how potential applicants interact with everyone else in your office. How do they take direction? Are they engaged and asking questions? Do they seem to fit right in with your company culture? 

There will be nuances involved in how front desk staff interact with patients, particularly if you serve a special needs community. If the applicant is not warm and cordial with therapists or other colleagues, it’s a red flag that they may not be likely to treat patients with the level of care you expect.

In addition, tread carefully if someone other than you is making the final decision to hire someone new. What’s been their track record of new hire selection? If you feel you have a better sense of whom to bring on board, you should make sure to set up second interviews or at least meet the applicants prior to approving any staff member’s decision. In a nutshell, trust your gut as the clinic owner!

Offer Dedicated Training for In-House Staff

Once you’ve decided to bring someone onto your team, we highly suggest requiring at least two weeks of dedicated training. This can be tough if you don’t have the luxury of turnaround time, but the inconvenience of being short-staffed for a while has fewer consequences than throwing a novice into a job they’re not prepared for. You’ll be glad you spent the time and money to train new staff instead of making up for potentially serious mistakes later. All administrative staff will learn more about the industry over time, but the basics are essential from day one so they feel comfortable with their basic knowledge. 

At TheraPlan, we’ve worked with many an admin team, so we have a good idea of what’s usually missing from their knowledge base. As a result, we recommend including the following components in your training program, at a minimum: 

  • Definitions of common terms (co-pay, co-insurance, deductible)
  • New patient intake process at your clinic
  • Commercial insurance 101
  • Medicaid and Medicare overview (if necessary)
  • CPT codes for relevant disciplines
  • HIPAA compliance for admins 
  • Your clinic-specific processes

The Effects of Hiring Wisely

Once you’ve implemented the hiring practices above, you’ll start to see the positive effects on every other area of your practice. Thorough screening of applicants and effective training result in fewer worries about HIPAA compliance, a more efficient credentialing process, and less risk for your business overall. 

Need to consult with an expert about how to hire more quality help for your therapy practice? Along with our experienced partner billing agency, we offer consulting for clinics of all sizes. Contact us today.


6 Hidden Benefits of Using a Web-Based EMR

6 Hidden Benefits of Using a Web-Based EMR

At TheraPlan, we believe in building electronic solutions for every therapy clinic’s needs. One of the primary ways to take your clinic from disorganization to efficiency is to use an EMR. More specifically, a web-based EMR is ideal for many reasons. Getting away from paper-based records in general is a smart idea in our opinion, but we know that not all EMRs are created equal.

You may already realize the more obvious arguments for accessing your documentation, schedule, payroll, and more from any device via a web browser. It can be incredibly convenient, more secure than facility-based storage, and simple to communicate with colleagues. 

However, there are also unexpected advantages to adopting a web-based system over server-based software. Our team has compiled six benefits you may not have thought of: 

  1. Implementation costs can be significantly reduced. Instead of having to worry about upgrading your computers and network or installing an on-site server, you can transition to a web-based EMR quickly and at relatively low cost. As long as you and your team have browsers and a secure internet connection, you’ll be able to onboard to electronic records without much hassle. This is especially advantageous for any home-based therapists, since they won’t have to carry around any new hardware when they’re out in the field.
  2. The ability to pull reports for billing saves you and your admin team time. Most EMRs have report functionality, and having reports accessible online for billing purposes can drastically increase efficiency in your therapy practice. If you take care of billing in-house, your staff will be able to simply log in to your EMR from any device and pull updated reports or export new ones whenever necessary. Billing agencies, like our partner company, also love the convenience of web-based records. When they need details about a treatment or evaluation, or even demographic data for a patient, the agency staff won’t need to call your office. You can simply provide them with secure login credentials for your chosen EMR so they can perform this research themselves. Without the wait time required for back-and-forth communication, you’ll likely notice that the average length of time in which your claims are processed or appealed will shorten. 
  3. It’s possible to keep an up-to-date live waiting list as your practice grows. Some EMRs, such as TheraPlan, allow patients to be placed in categories such as inactive, active, or pending. This is much more useful than a paper waiting list, as every person who views your patient list will know the current status of each patient. Not only does this lessen the frustration of remembering to update a physical list, but can facilitate quick communication with patients who inquire about when they’ll be able to schedule an appointment.
  4. Holding your staff accountable is easy with accurate, accessible records available any time, anywhere. When you can track minute-by-minute edits on documents and see time-stamped signatures, there is no question as to who did what and when. Although oversight may not be your favorite task as a clinic owner, it’s sometimes necessary to review a specific record. On a daily basis, you can also use the history feature of a web-based EMR to see how quickly your therapists are completing documentation. Whether you use it to hold staff to company policies or decide when caseloads have reached an overwhelming level, this data is crucial for business growth.
  5. Standardizing technology across your clinic will no longer be an issue. Since backups and updates are taken care of, your providers can simply use whatever hardware they prefer, as long as it allows access to an internet browser. While you can still recommend certain hardware, you could completely avoid the expense of providing it for all your therapists. This is a huge money-saving benefit. 
  6. You’ll receive outside user tutorials and technical support at the click of a button. The best EMRs will predict the problems or confusion users could experience and provide resources to help. Within TheraPlan, video tutorials and PDF guides are found in our Help & Forms section. We also have a help desk manned with technical support specialists five days a week. We believe this reduces the amount of technical questions your admin staff will receive, thus allowing them to spend their time on other important tasks.

TheraPlan is your source for all info relevant to your therapy practice: patients, treatments, credentials, and more from anywhere you want to access it. Sign up for a demo today to experience both the obvious and not-so-obvious benefits of web-based technology in your clinic.

How to Set Up Internal Audit Procedures to Maintain Your Therapy Clinic’s Compliance

Following legal guidelines is an essential part of running any type of business, but is especially crucial in the therapy field. Though therapy clinic regulations may not be as intense as those for traditional medical specialties, maintaining compliance can still be quite complex. In fact, this is one of the most intimidating factors of starting a therapy clinic, and can be the downfall of a fully operational clinic if audit procedures are not in place.

Since our EMR was built specifically to make it easy for users to comply with HIPAA and Florida CMS guidelines, we understand the ins and outs of audit-proofing your clinic’s protocol and documentation.

To begin establishing internal audit procedures, you’ll first need to thoroughly understand the components of compliance as they relate to therapy clinics. These can vary depending upon the mix of insurance coverage amongst your patients (i.e. the portion of Medicaid patients vs. commercial carrier patients you see). However, some components are true across the board. Here are five key ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Medical necessity. This is an element that many in the therapy world omit from the compliance conversation. However, it’s essential that your documentation reflects the honorable nature of any treatment your therapists provide to patients. According to CMS.gov, including a statement asserting that the therapist believes treatment is medically necessary “supports approval” of a Medicaid or Medicare claim. Therefore, if your office treats patients covered by either public health insurance program, we suggest requiring the medical necessity statement on all documentation that leaves your practice. In our 25+ years of experience with medical billing, we’ve discovered the importance of this verification for the efficiency of approvals, payments, and ultimately, for your patients’ continuity of care. That’s why we’ve included medical necessity checkboxes on all our therapy documentation templates.
  2. Signature and documentation requirements. Hand in hand with the above recommendation, CMS requires that all treatment notes and evaluations be completed and signed within 48 hours of the therapy session. This is both to ensure that the therapist hasn’t forgotten what transpired and can accurately document a patient’s progress, but also for the security of the patient’s records. The time frame of completion is difficult to regulate using paper documentation. With an EMR that locks and time stamps each document, though, any audit personnel will have assurance that you have complied with this rule.
  3. HIPAA. As you should already know, HIPAA is perhaps the most important factor in compliance, as it has been federal law since 1996. Especially if your clinic is growing, it’s imperative to create a mandatory HIPAA training protocol for each new hire. Asking them to sign a statement that they understand HIPAA law does not protect you from potential loss in the event of a violation, no matter how unintentional. It’s a heavy responsibility to ensure that your therapists and admin staff fully comprehend the intricacies of HIPAA and how to comply with everyday office procedures. Yet, it’s absolutely worth your time and effort to close any holes in knowledge that could jeopardize your practice altogether.
  4. Coding and billing. Two of the most significant components in compliance involve the way you keep your business afloat: by submitting and getting paid for the therapy treatments you’ve provided. Thorough documentation is fundamental to a smooth billing process, as are precise units of time. Next is accurate coding. If you rely upon your staff to code treatments in-house, it’s wise to make sure that at least two pairs of eyes fall upon each outgoing evaluation or SOAP note. Completing this manually can increase the room for error, however. When you use TheraPlan, it’s easy for each user to see which CPT codes they’ve filled in on the patient’s most recent document and use a pre-filled dropdown to select the correct code for their specialty. Whether you complete billing yourself or outsource it to an experienced agency, honest and timely billing processes also fall under the umbrella of compliance. 
  5. Miscellaneous administrative factors. These include secure communication with patients, confidentiality, and fair hiring practices. The details may vary based on your practice size and the number of staff you have available to help, but prioritizing organization in all facets of your clinic operations is a good place to start.

If you’ve integrated all of the above factors into your clinic’s procedures, the next step is being able to prove it. In the event of an audit, you’ll most likely be questioned about your protocol for communicating and maintaining compliance in your clinic. Keeping a record of the way you and your staff address each and every requirement can seem overwhelming, but it’s simply a matter of creating a system. Much like you have created a system for payroll, accounting, and other elements of business ownership, this is truly no different. 

As a tech company, we believe in electronic management of internal compliance efforts. Whether you use shared online spreadsheets that track each person’s access and changes or an EMR like TheraPlan, which automatically records each user’s actions within the software, you should find a method you’re comfortable with to track every person who has interacted with documentation and patient records. That way, there’s no doubt as to what has happened in the event of an audit or alleged HIPAA violation. 

Ultimately, compliance is about integrity. Keeping in mind what’s fair and required for all parties, regardless of the amount of effort involved, will protect you in the event of an audit.

Check out TheraPlan’s security-focused software to discover the ways our EMR can simplify this process for you and your staff. 

*Disclaimer: We do not recommend using this blog as your only source of information regarding compliance. Please thoroughly research the regulations that apply to your state and range of specialties prior to preparing your clinic for future audits.

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Therapist Life: The Importance of Keeping an Open Line of Communication with Your Clinic’s Admin Team

When you got your first job as a therapist, you may have realized there’s a lot more to the role than just seeing patients. Sure, your impact on those in need of therapy may be the most important part, but there are lots of other moving pieces that make a clinic run well. A lot of that depends on you! From completing documentation thoroughly and on time to managing a packed schedule, you do much more than interact with patients.

In our opinion, the most critical element of efficiency in a therapy clinic is communication: between therapists and patients, but more importantly, between therapists and administrative staff. Your position in this communication equation is critical. At TheraPlan, we’re all about making your job easy and efficient. Having watched clinics of all sizes deal with internal confusion and conflict over the years, we’ve come up with a few suggestions to avoid such roadblocks. 

We highly recommend you build a solid relationship with your clinic’s admin staff, whether you work in the clinic every day or you’re a home-based therapist who just calls in for specific requests now and then. Here are a few reminders about the significance of the professional connection you have with your admins:

  • Admins are often the ones who follow up on billing claims and ensuring that you get paid! Your income is dependent upon the speed and accuracy with which claims are submitted and tracked. If admins are responsible for this, you’ll want to ensure that you keep an open line of communication with them and do your part to make this as easy as possible for them. 
  • They can act as patient liaisons for important tasks like scheduling. Seemingly simple tasks, like getting patients to confirm or commit to appointment times, can feel the most overwhelming. If your week is packed and you can’t seem to find time to reach out to patients you need to hear from, why not enlist the help of your admin team? Depending on your clinic’s protocol for scheduling, this could be a great way to ease your daily workload.
  • In order for all of the above to be possible, you should set the tone for communication early on. We suggest doing this in the following ways:
    • Answer emails and provide them with anything they request (i.e. credentialing requirements) ASAP. Remember: admins are the link between you and your clinic owner! Having a ‘paper trail’ is important if you ever encounter a miscommunication.
    • Give them plenty of notice when you need a favor. Your front desk staff is likely swamped, so it may be unreasonable to expect they can provide a quick turnaround.
    • Ask questions so as not to appear demanding. Everyone likes to feel they are being helpful. So presenting your needs as a question can be a great tool. For example, saying “I’m having trouble verifying this patient’s insurance. Would you be able to help me?” is better than “I need you to verify this patient’s insurance for me.” If you don’t know your admins on a personal level, this is all the more important. 
    • Use TheraPlan’s message center for quick communication about patient arrivals, rescheduled appointments, paperwork needs, and more. We believe in straightforward and simple communication so much that we built it into our EMR. Instead of having to send internal email for every little thing, you can stay inside our application and just shoot a message to a fellow user. They’ll get a notification no matter where they are working inside TheraPlan, or upon logging in the next time.

Every professional environment can benefit from conscientious communication, but especially a therapy clinic. Due to the nature of your work, it’s possible to go days without seeing your colleagues face-to-face or spending significant time with them. Being proactive using the above tips can help set a precedent for other therapists and show your admin team that you appreciate all they do to make your job possible. 

Think your peers could benefit from our advice? Share this post on Facebook.

 

7 Ways to Improve Your Therapy Clinic's Communication with Primary Care Providers

7 Ways to Improve Your Therapy Clinic’s Communication with Primary Care Providers

It may be the most frustrating, but also the most necessary, job your therapy clinic is responsible for: communicating with your patients’ primary care providers (PCPs). Relying on another office (that may not run as efficiently as yours) to return crucial documents on time is just not fun. We get it! When a PCP doesn’t sign a patient’s plan of care (POC) within the given window, or their admin staff simply doesn’t get it back to you on time, it can be a detriment to your patient’s continuity of care and your billing process (and not in a good way).

Hope is not lost, however. Instead of simply accepting the resulting inefficiencies as the way it has to be forever, consider that there are some things you can do to smooth the communication on your end. Following are seven essential tips for making your most dreaded communication-related tasks a lot simpler: 

  • Keep good records so you don’t have to go searching for anything. We suggest electronic ones, of course. No matter who is digging for information – whether it’s you as the owner, one of your office admins, or a therapist – there should be one reliable place they can all look for crucial data. This can be achieved with paper files, but only until someone accidentally misplaces that all-important intake form or proof of insurance. That won’t happen when you store critical info in an EMR.
  • Train your therapists to complete documentation on time. As you know, failing to have an evaluation/POC signed by a doctor in a reasonable amount of time can lead to putting patients on hold. This negatively impacts insurance claim processing time, which means you and your therapists are waiting even longer than you already do to receive payment! A good way to reduce this risk is to require that therapists complete all documents within 48 hours after treatment, ensuring that your clinic won’t be responsible for any delays in processing paperwork. TheraPlan’s dashboard Open Encounters tile can make this easy. Any unfinished treatment notes or evaluations will be immediately visible upon logging in, so there’s no way therapists will forget about them. 
  • Get ahead of reevaluation deadlines. In addition to finishing and submitting reevaluation documentation to the PCP on time, it’s a good idea to have therapists complete them as early as possible. We suggest 30 days in advance of the previous plan of care’s expiration. That way, there’s no pressure if PCPs take a bit too long to be signed and sent back. More importantly, there won’t be even a short period of time in which a patient can’t be treated due to a pending plan of care (POC). 
  • Keep all intake forms and doctor’s contact info in the patient’s chart. We cannot stress enough the importance of creating systems for maintaining centralized records in your clinic. It’s critical that every person who will come in contact with patient charts understands the protocol you have established. Whether you have a large office or no clinic and only home-based therapists, keeping documents in one place is possible and easy with a web-based EMR.
  • Set up email encryption and connect your email client to TheraPlan. Secure, HIPAA-compliant communication is non-negotiable in the therapy industry. Yet, trying to monitor this as a clinic owner can become stressful and risky. We recommend that all our clinic owners set up a HIPAA-compliant email service of their choice, then simply connect the email client to TheraPlan in order to send patients records safely and conveniently with the click of a button from inside our EMR.
  • Use TheraPlan’s new TheraFax feature. Send documents to a doctor’s office or insurance company right from your EMR, and receive their replies from within our software. We anticipate that this integrated faxing service will double your clinic’s efficiency when it comes to sending POCs to all of the PCPs with whom your clinic needs to communicate.
  • Network with the doctors in your community. A personal connection can go a long way. When a PCP or their admin staff recognize the name of a clinic on an incoming fax or email, they will be likely to prioritize it. Not only will networking increase your referrals, but you’ll find that communication is much more comfortable if you know the doctor personally, especially when you need to call their office with a concern or request.

There are quite a few steps you can take to improve your clinic’s administrative efficiency regarding communication with primary care providers. The best side effect of paying attention to the above advice is less stress for you! 

This issue is such a priority for us that we built it into our software. Try sending your emails and faxes directly from TheraPlan and see for yourself what a difference this makes for your clinic. Click here to speak to our team about adding TheraFax to your account.

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Time Management is Key in Software Development

Written by our superstar Technical Support Specialist, Johnny Lagow

Time is a precious commodity in our lives that we often realize too late has already slipped through our fingers. We are left in a daze of worry as to where the past day, month, or year has gone.  

In a monochronic culture such as our own, we are expected to perform tasks in a linear fashion, with lateness simply being tolerated and reinforced by the phrase “Time is money.” From my high school career to my college years, I have found that my own scheduling betrays this system, making it difficult to meet deadlines or arrive at a solution without also being late to the party. As time has gone on, I have realized the necessity of adapting to stricter time management but found it difficult to discover an effective method of accomplishing this.  

As a college student, before joining the TheraPlan team, I tried to cut blocks of time out of the day, designating specific periods of work or relaxation:  

5:00PM – 6:00PM: Calc 2 Homework;  

6:00PM – 7:30PMWrite Fiction;  

7:30PM – 8:30PM: Clean House 

As I applied this schedule to my daily routine, it became increasingly evident that this model would not work long-term, as I often became more engrossed in some tasks and their allotted time would override others. On top of this, my interest in tasks would wane and wax from day to day, and an allotted block of time dedicated to homework or hobbies could easily devolve into blankly staring at a book or computer screen.  

Cut to February 2018. After an incredible amount of time wasted during my exploration of failed time management methods I found employment at TheraPlan. Here, we have a fast-paced development environment in which a flurry of tasks makes time management a must. I knew I needed to find something to hold me accountable. My first attempt involved the Pomodoro Technique, in which a timer is set for 25-minute work intervals with five-minute breaks in between. (There are such timers available as both web-based systems and phone applications.) Unfortunately, I found that the break intervals served only to literally break my concentration, and the work intervals were much too short for the tasks I needed to complete. 

My next discovery was the one that stuck. I downloaded a time management app called Forest, which offered an interesting solution to my scheduling and concentration blocks. Using the app is simple: select a block of time (10-minute increments) and a type of tree you would like to grow, then get to work. If you exit the app, the tree will die. However, if you are successful in working until the time is up, you will be rewarded with a fully-grown tree sitting in a digital plane like a towering trophy (which you can name)! 

I’ve found this method of time management to be both flexible and rewarding. I quickly adopted it not only during my days at TheraPlan, but also out of the office. I like that I can cut my work day into chunks: an hour for development, thirty minutes for database review, etc. At home, I can allocate an hour of cleaning the house and another hour for personal writing. At the end of the day, I am rewarded with an expression of my productivity: an entire forest, each tree representing a task I was able to accomplish without much interruption.  

Of course, the most difficult question then becomes: How do you rank items in order of importance and allot the correct amount of time? For me, this question will always be answered in terms of deadlines. Does a bug in TheraPlan need to be rectified within a week? Schedule an hour of time now. How about another item that is required in two months? Schedule 15 minutes a day.  

What about fitting in TheraPlan support calls? This will always be the only exception to my loyalty to the time management app. At TheraPlan, we take pride in our high-quality, unlimited customer support, and continuously strive to improve the user experience. If we are working on an important software development item (even one that is due that very same day), we will gladly set it aside immediately to work on a client’s issue.  

I hope that I may have introduced you to an interesting method of time management that can help increase your day-to-day productivity. Those of us in the software development world aren’t the only ones who can benefit from paying better attention to how we use our time!