4 Essential Considerations for Your Mental Health Practice Management Software

July 15, 2024

If you’re evaluating mental health practice management software, you’ve likely already concluded that jumping between multiple systems to run your practice wastes a lot of time. Science backs up your instincts.

Context switching (which is just a fancy way of saying “jumping between different tasks at work”) is cognitively taxing. It turns out that even toggling between two software applications is considered context switching. Do it too much, and your brain produces more of the pesky stress hormone cortisol, slowing you down and making it harder to focus. 

Mental health practice management software helps you stop the switch. These solutions include various built-in tools and functionality needed to run your practice – like appointment scheduling, charting, messaging, billing, and more. The result is more automation and less switching, so you can regain control of your time and provide a seamless client experience. 

When choosing the best mental health practice management software, you should consider some important areas. This article provides a deep dive into each of them, along with advice for evaluating solutions and how to go about switching.

#1: Security and HIPAA Compliance for Mental Health Practice Management Software 

#2: Administration, Workflows, and Systems for Mental Health Pros

#3: How to Evaluate Your Mental Health Practice Management Software

#4: How to Switch Mental Health Practice Management Software

Consideration #1: Security and HIPAA compliance for mental health practice software

A great deal of trust is baked into your relationships with your clients. A deep commitment to upholding ethical standards in providing care also involves safeguarding their private health information, or PHI. Maintaining HIPAA compliance (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) helps prevent data breaches and unintended exposures that put their privacy at risk.  

HIPAA compliant telehealth

Like other areas of health care, mental health services saw high telehealth adoption rates during the pandemic. Interestingly, this also led to desirable outcomes, like reduced no-show rates and increased appointment numbers. 

The ongoing popularity of telehealth in mental health isn’t surprising. It’s convenient, and the tech overcomes geographic, mobility, and transportation barriers. For example, a new mother seeking help with postpartum depression might find it challenging to get herself and a new baby out of the house for an in-person session when she’s dealing with overwhelming anxiety and loss of energy. Hopping on a telehealth appointment from home between naps or while sitting and rocking a newborn will likely feel much less daunting. 

Mental health practitioners are subject to the Security Rule under HIPAA. This requires you to implement safeguards that protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI when you’re delivering HIPAA-compliant telehealth sessions.

Here are some security features to insist on in HIPAA-compliant telehealth software:

  • End-to-end encryption – Look for gold-standard encryption protocols like TLS (Transport Layer Security) and AES 256-bit encryption (Advanced Encryption Standard) to prevent unauthorized access or eavesdropping during telehealth sessions.
  • Access controls – The software should let you define who can and can’t access PHI. It should also allow you to create unique usernames and strong passwords and provide multi-factor authentication (MFA). 
  • Business Associate Agreement (BAA) – A BAA is a legal contract you sign with your software provider. If your provider doesn’t offer one it’s more than a big red flag – it violates HIPAA. Practice Better customers can easily review and sign a BAA directly from their portal.
  • Secure messaging – It’s convenient to screen share or share resources instantly with clients using telehealth chat. Sending follow-up messaging from your platform might be in order as well. Any messaging tool should encrypt messages to protect the content of the conversation.
  • Risk assessments and security audits – Audit logs record all actions and interactions involving PHI, including who accessed the data, when, and what they did with it. These are crucial for both monitoring security and helping with investigations in the event of a breach.  

Beyond providing HIPAA-compliant telehealth sessions, Practice Better offers a virtual background feature for additional privacy and professionalism. You can either choose to display an image or blur your background. 

Consideration #2: Administration, workflows, and systems for mental health pros

Your practice management software should offer features that improve your efficiency and make it easy to scale your practice. It should also provide a smooth client experience while always protecting their privacy. 

Key features of the best mental health practice management software

  • Comprehensive client note-taking – Your practice management solution should support detailed documentation, including progress notes, treatment plans, assessments, interventions, and any relevant attachments (like scanned documents or images). 

Practice management software can ease the load by giving you reusable templates to quickly create the notes and charts you most frequently use with clients. It should also allow for attachments and make adding links, videos, and lists easy.

“There are so many incredible ways to create charting templates that are easy to use (because we don’t love notes as clinicians, so why not make them easy to do?)”

Lexie Belle, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • Keeping client records detailed and organized – Incomplete or disorganized records impact your ability to clearly understand a client’s history and needs, leading to misunderstandings and fragmented care. Look for software with features like search functions and filters to allow quick access to specific sections within your note-taking system.  

If you treat children in your practice, it’s also handy to have a solution that allows family records. By linking a sub-record (the child) to a primary record (the parent), you can make it easy for the parent to request appointments for the child through the client portal.   

  • Scheduling – Built-in scheduling makes it easy for clients to book with you. Canceling an appointment should also be straightforward, protecting you from last-minute situations that leave revenue-impacting holes in your schedule. For example, common functionality includes prominently displaying your cancellation charge policy or setting limits on the window for cancellations.

Ultimately, you want to be in control of your calendar. So, the ability to fence off your time and customize what availability clients can see helps you maintain boundaries and balance.

“I use Practice Better to ensure my clients’ needs are met during and in between sessions. I love that the platform offers options for my clients to engage in therapy with me. I offer them the chance to view my calendar availability based on the service or package with options for phone, chat, or Telehealth.”

Sam Getha, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Intake forms – Getting the paperwork out of the way before the first appointment lets you get to know new clients faster. Look for mental health practice management software that simplifies information collection by automating sending forms, waivers, and agreements before your first session.  

If you work with referral partners, creating a space on your website for them to input client information and have it securely transmitted right into your practice management system frees you from time-wasting, error-prone manual entry.

Automated appointment reminders

No-shows also tend to be more prevalent when you’re counseling people who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health. One way to mitigate the no-show issue is to send out automated appointment reminders by email or SMS. These pre-appointment messages also allow you to include any special preparation notes or instructions embedded in the reminder. Your software should enable you to automate and customize client appointment reminders.

An example of setting Session Reminders in Practice Better Mental Health Practice Management Software.

Billing and payments

Having billing and payments integrated into your practice management solution is a huge timesaver. The ability to accept, manage, and track all payments in one place saves the time and frustration of moving between systems and reconciling different reporting into one view of your finances. 

  • That no-show issue we just discussed can also be tempered by requiring payments or deposits when booking. If your regulator allows it, your mental health practice management software should offer built-in functionality that requires payment before a client can request a session through your booking page.  
  • Allowing clients to safely store their credit card information in your client portal also frees them from repeatedly adding their billing information each time they book with you. Insist on robust encryption and PCI compliance in your software to secure all client credit card data.
  • If you operate in the US, make sure your solution supports insurance billing so it’s easy for you and your clients to submit claims for reimbursement. 
  • All-in-one systems typically provide comprehensive reports on billing activities, including claim statuses, payments received, outstanding balances, and revenue projections. This helps you understand your finances and identify trends while staying compliant with insurance standards.

Consideration #3: How to evaluate your mental health practice management software

Now that you understand the key components to look for in mental health practice management software let’s dive into how to assess the efficacy of any solution you’re evaluating. 

  • Client engagement tools – Features like a client portal and tools that allow for secure communication and engagement between sessions make your clients’ experience more enjoyable. 
  • Cost and scalability – A practitioner just starting out will have a different threshold for cost than a seasoned practitioner with an established client base driving recurring revenue. Your software vendor should offer flexible plans that are easy to switch between as your practice needs change. Seek out scalable software built to accommodate practice growth.
Summary of Practice Better pricing plans, from Starter ($25/CAD/month) to Team ($145/CAD/month) for mental health practice management software.
  • Integrations – You may want to use other tools in your practice, like Google Calendar, Dropbox, or Fullscript. Your mental health practice management software should allow for easy integration with these applications without the need to pay for time-consuming, expensive custom work. 
  • Reporting and analytics – There are many insights that help you run your business smarter – from practice performance to finances to client outcomes. A well-rounded solution will give you the power to generate customized reports to suit your business needs. 
  • Customization options – Seek a solution that lets you add your branding to common client touchpoints and personalize the messages in your text and SMS notifications. Other built-in customizations can help improve your workflows, such as the ability to add widgets, bookmark areas you visit frequently, and pin clients to access their files more quickly. 
  • User-friendly interface and accessibility – Your practice management software is supposed to make your job easier, and that means neither you (nor your clients) should be scratching your heads trying to figure out how to use it.

Make sure you get an in-depth demo or, even better, take advantage of a free trial to test out the interface. Look for a clear design, logical layout, and functionality consistent with the other software you know and love. This experience should extend through to the client portal. 

The solution should also be accessible across devices and operating systems, with a mobile app that makes it as easy to use on the go as it is from a desktop. 

Reviews and testimonials

When you’re researching the best mental health practice management software, don’t forget to factor in what actual users of the tech are saying. You can reach out to your community to see what tools they are using and what they like/dislike about them. You can also see what mental health practitioners say about tools you consider on peer-to-peer review sites like G2.

A five star review from Samantha S on G2, reviewing Practice Better a mental health practice management software.

Many software companies publish customer success stories on their websites, which you can read to better understand how they use specific software functionality.

Sam Getha is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who provides psychotherapy via Telehealth across Alaska and Virginia. Sam helps adults who struggle with trauma, depression, and anxiety. You can read about her experience with Practice Better over here.  

Lexie Belle, MS LMHC, QS, runs a group practice in Florida specializing in reproductive mental health for women, perinatal mental health for pregnant and postpartum people, and mental health when struggling through infertility or pregnancy loss. See which Practice Better features she relies on to run her practice.

Consideration #4: How to switch mental health practice management software

If you’re already relying on a solution (or solutions) to run your practice and you to switch to all-in-one practice management software, here’s what to expect.   

Implementation 

Your chosen vendor should make transitioning to their platform painless. Their IT team should be able to help you import your clients’ basic information – like name, email address, mailing address, date of birth, gender – into your account once you provide it in an Excel or .CSV format.

At Practice Better, we also assist you with importing client documents into your Documents section if you can have these exported from your current system. If you want to explore switching your practice management software to Practice Better, you can schedule your personalized migration consultation with our customer support team today. 

Make the switch

Training and onboarding

Learning the ins and outs of a new software system takes time, but you shouldn’t have to go it alone. Ask any vendor you’re evaluating what they offer for onboarding resources. They should be able to offer you a substantial online repository of resources that walk you through key steps in getting set up. Written materials are helpful, but videos that let you see and follow along are invaluable.

Troubleshooting and support

Your chosen software provider should address common issues through the implementation phase. It should also be easy to reach their internal experts through online chat or telephone. Bonus marks if there are additional channels you can use to connect with experts and peers. 

For example, at Practice Better, we offer regular live Q&A Getting Started Live Class sessions hosted by our experts.

We also have an exhaustive online help center customers can use to troubleshoot questions themselves. Finally, anyone interested in Practice Better is invited to our private community, where they can connect with peers anytime. 

Seeing is believing

There’s a lot riding on your mental health practice management software. This guide gives you a solid checklist to follow when evaluating any solution. Finding the right mix of features, support, and price points that will work for your unique business needs is the key to enjoying long-term success. Make sure you give yourself ample time to thoroughly evaluate any choices so you feel confident.  

Want to explore an EHR that can help you build an integrative mental health practice? Check out what Practice Better can do in this demo and begin your 14-day free trial today.

[Editor’s note: this post was originally posted on December 8, 2023. It has been updated for comprehensiveness.]

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