Theraplan note

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. 

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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.

Three Ways to Keep Pediatric Therapy Patients on Track During Back-to-School

If your therapy clinic treats mostly pediatric patients, chances are your business is seasonal. You may have noticed that your busiest or slowest times coincide with the changes in an average student’s schedule. Because of this correlation, back-to-school season (August or September) tends to be either overwhelmingly busy or a time when your therapists get a well-deserved break. At this time of year, parents can be bogged down in the new routine and not ready to commit to regular therapy appointments, or instead want to dive into the new school year head-first and fill up your calendar last-minute.

Not only do your therapists need regular work, but we’re guessing that many of your patients shouldn’t go too long without treatment. The difference between a successful or stressful back-to-school period for your employees and patients alike is thoughtful anticipation. We recommend training your therapists to be conscientious about this trend each year and take some small steps to prioritize the flow of appointments.

Below are our top three suggestions for how to make smooth scheduling achievable at this potentially volatile time of year.

  1. Talk to parents to encourage consistent scheduling in late summer and leading up to the start of school. Hinting at the upcoming school year in a laid-back manner can simply keep it top of mind for them. To gently nudge families towards scheduling therapy appointments well in advance, you can put up casual signs in your waiting room or offer your therapists incentives for getting patients who have an ongoing need to commit to school-year slots during July or August. Most parents will appreciate an offhand reminder that they need to consider when they’ll have time to bring their child in once school begins. 
  2. Remind families that your calendar will fill up in the fall to encourage early commitment to time slots. If you have a large clinic with an admin staff, build future appointment discussions into your check-in procedure. There are several ways to do this without relying on your front desk staff to remember. For example, add a yes-or-no column to your sign-in sheet asking if patients plan to continue with regular appointments after school starts, or whether they will require a change in appointment time by a certain date. Then, follow up with just those patients who said yes via templated emails or an automated email service. Another approach is to suggest that therapists put up a wall calendar in their treatment rooms showing color-coded slots (taken vs. available) for the next two months. Even just this visual reminder puts a bit of pressure on parents to without being too pushy.
  3. If a patient’s appointment time will be changing, use TheraPlan’s scheduler to hold those slots in advance. Some patients may be adjusting their regular appointment times (from morning to afternoon, for example) at the start of the fall semester. To do so, you can simply enter a single or recurring appointment for the desired date and time and include a note in the new appointment box, such as ‘Will Confirm on {date}.’ This way, any of your staff who hover over that appointment will see that it is not yet confirmed but will know to touch base with the appropriate therapist before booking anyone else at that time.

Once you’ve gotten most of your patients to acknowledge how they’ll be proceeding with appointments at this transitional time of year, don’t neglect to keep up with the reminders! One of the best ways to interact with busy parents is to show up in front of them on a regular basis and make communication convenient. 

TheraPlan’s SMS appointment reminders are the perfect way to do that. The best part is that you don’t have to manage and send these yourself. If you use the calendar feature within our EMR, text reminders will integrate with your schedule and be sent automatically to the patients you select 24 hours prior to their appointment. To see firsthand how this feature can reduce your clinic’s no-shows, schedule a demo with us today.

Why Efficient Credentialing is Essential to Your Therapy Clinic’s Revenue

As a therapy clinic owner, you are no stranger to administrative tasks. However, there is a hierarchy of need when it comes to these responsibilities. Some tasks, such as scheduling, can be quite easy to hand over to an admin team or manage with the help of an EMR like TheraPlan, while others are a bit more sensitive. We would argue that one of the most critical things you apply your time and attention to at your clinic is keeping up with credentialing for your therapists. 

Becoming credentialed with an insurance provider is no small feat. Whether you are dealing with Medicare, Medicaid, or any commercial carrier, the process often involves spending hours on the phone (during your precious work day) and even more hours gathering the necessary paperwork. Long story short, credentialing for the rolling list of therapists on your payroll can become quite the nightmare.

While therapists are technically responsible for their own credentials, it’s no secret that they rely on clinic owners like you to keep up with the necessary steps. After all, knowingly submitting claims without credentials can backfire on your entire operation, not just on the individual therapist. If your therapists are providing services to patients and billing an insurance company with whom they are not properly credentialed, there will eventually be consequences, not the least of which is your potential loss of revenue! 

In order to keep cash flowing and allow for no break in therapy for your patients, it’s wise to create an organized plan and adhere to consistent guidelines when it comes to credentialing.

Here are a few things the TheraPlan team suggests for making your credentials record-keeping process more efficient:

  • Communicate openly with new hires. Creating transparency with any new therapists who join your team is essential to maintaining their credentials. Encourage new hires to be up-front about their current standing with each insurance, and ask for demographic data (such as social security number and NPI) right away to avoid any delay when it comes time to renew credentials. It’s a good idea to create a comprehensive calendar for all of your therapists that shows any upcoming expirations in one place.
  • Because each insurance credential differently, take notes on the specifics of each in a central location accessible to future admin staff. In each therapist’s file, be sure to note the date and time of every phone call or other interaction you’ve had with insurances and ask for the name of every representative.
  • Build a monthly process that makes sense for your clinic. If there are other tasks you complete on a regular basis, schedule the credentialing tasks in advance to the best of your ability. Rather than trying to fit it in when you have ‘free time’ and finding yourself stressed by deadlines or facing delays in billing, make applying for and maintaining credentials a top priority. For example, if you always complete payroll at a particular time of the week or month, build in some tasks related to credentialing so it doesn’t build up into a more daunting job.

Even after implementing these efficiencies, the paper trail will inevitably become too much to manage. That’s why we created a specific web-based place for these types of important records to live. Inside TheraPlan’s User Maintenance section, which is accessible to clinic owners and admin staff, there is an accordion labeled Credentials. Here, you can store all the essential demographic data you’ll need to refer to for each employee. Find out more about the administrative benefits of using our EMR here.

The benefits of maximizing efficiency and staying up to date with credentialing requirements are many. If you’re dedicated to keeping up with this building block of therapy clinic administration, you can minimize therapist turnover and create a solid, long-term relationship with your qualified staff. Your business revenue won’t suffer due to missing documentation. Perhaps most importantly, the community of patients you serve won’t experience any gaps in care.

audit-guided documentation

Protect Your Florida Therapy Practice with Audit-Guided Documentation

Insurance audits are a reality for therapy clinic owners. Getting audited can be one of the most stressful things to happen to you as a business owner. After all, if you don’t pass an audit, it could mean returning large sums of money to the insurance company. So, what will you need to guarantee compliance? That can vary. Some audits cover your entire practice, while others are specific to a few patients or providers. Here are a few examples of documents you could be expected to provide:  
  • Financial records
  • Daily progress notes
  • Evaluations
  • Plans of care
  • Billing logs
  • Appointment calendars
  • Provider documentation
In short, the more detailed history you keep, the better. Be ready to produce any records that pertain to your practice at any moment. But don’t panic! There are a few things you can do to prepare and, in turn, ease your worries about an insurance audit. First, keep your admin team organized. It is of utmost importance that you and your administrative staff know where to find everything in the event of an audit. This way, you can easily identify if any records are missing or incomplete right away, rather than spending the days allotted trying to locate the pertinent files. This is especially important if your clinic uses paper records. Get those filing cabinets in order! It’s also wise to spend the extra time it takes to set your therapists up for success. This may mean training them on a better way to complete notes or hiring extra admin help to answer their questions and keep an eye out for holes in the system. Review your billing logs in detail to identify areas in which your team of providers could improve. By far the best way to be ready for the dreaded audit is to use electronic medical records (EMR) software. However, just having an EMR is not enough. It should be an EMR that will house everything you need when an audit notice arrives. This way, you’re not referring to the EMR for some details and searching around for others. Unlike generic EMRs, TheraPlan has your back during an audit. Using our 25 years of experience consulting with and billing for therapy clinics of all sizes, we designed TheraPlan according to the audit requirements of Florida Medicaid, Medicare, and Early Steps. If your therapists completely fill out our audit-guided documentation, you’ll have less reason to worry! Want to know more? Read about our audit-guided note templates and other features of our efficient documentation system.