Picture this scenario: on your way to the office, you stop at your favourite coffee shop. You run in, spend five minutes waiting in line, and return to the car—but as soon as you open the car door, you notice it: your laptop has been stolen. It’s a stressful situation no matter who you are, but if you’re a therapist, how much stress you’re under at this moment will depend on how your client information is stored. If it’s stored in cloud-based therapy practice management software, you’ll be able to change your password from another device and your client’s information will stay protected. If it’s on your hard drive, you could face having to contact your clients and telling them their identifying information has been compromised.
Even if you watch your laptop like a hawk, therapy practice management software can have huge benefits for your practice. With the right software, you can save time on scheduling, simplify your billing process, and make your client information easier to organize. It’s important to find software that matches your workflow and practice needs, but there are some basic features you should look for. More details on that below, plus the five best options on the market today.
Five important features to look for in therapy management software
- HIPAA best practice compliance:
With recent legislation increasing fines for violating HIPAA rules, it’s more important than ever to do what you can to keep your information secure. Although official HIPAA certification doesn’t exist, it’s important to find a software platform that follows HIPAA standards. The provider should offer a BAA agreement so you can rest assured that you’re not risking the security of anyone’s personal health information just by using the software. It’s always your responsibility to make sure your clients’ information is safe, but keeping it safe is much easier to do when you are using software that conforms to HIPAA standards.
- Online scheduling:
Accenture’s 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey found that over half of consumers expect healthcare providers to have digital capabilities like online scheduling, and younger consumers were influenced to choose those that did. Online scheduling not only saves you the back-and-forth discussions about availability, but it also gets clients in the door. Clients who are nervous about making that first phone call will find it much easier to schedule their appointment online.
- Client relationship/file management tools:
Client files get complicated. Intake forms, emergency contact information, diagnostic forms, and session notes should all be in one place, so they’re easy to access when you need them. Continually tracking client progress can give you a good idea of how successful your treatment plan is, and client managment tools can help you stay organized enough to do it consistently. They can also be a great way to store information like the CPT code their treatment falls under, or who their insurance provider is. In short, you’ll be less likely to spend time digging for client information.
- Invoicing features:
Accuracy in invoicing is important, particularly in therapy practices. Invoices with typos are sometimes rejected by insurance companies, increasing the chance you won’t get paid at all. Built-in invoicing features mean that your invoices will auto-populate with the information on your client’s file, including medical codes and the rest of their personal information. Also, they’ll make you less likely to bill for the wrong amount if you have sliding scale fees. Even if your clients pay out of pocket, invoicing features will help you create receipts for your clients’ taxes (and for yours).
- Payment processing:
Clients paying out of pocket will usually expect to be able to pay with their credit card. Paying in cash is becoming more rare in general, and with more therapists accepting card payments, you’ll risk looking unprofessional if you don’t. Although it’s possible to opt for a separate payment processor like Square, you’ll incur additional processing fees. It’s also worthwhile considering that the more apps your client’s personal health information is entered into, the more risk there is that it might one day be compromised. Finding a platform that contains all of these features will help you keep your client’s PHI secure.
The top 5 best practice management software solutions for therapists
Vcita is one of the cheapest practise management software on the market and offers great value for money. Vcita offers a vast variety of features specialised for running a therapy practise. Vcita offers appointment scheduling and payment options, client notes for documenting patient progress and flows, file sharing for uploading and downloading therapy material and insurance documents. Vcita offers moreover invoicing and payment processing features that supports the needs for mental health professionals. It also offers HIPAA compliant options at the Business and Platinum subscription plans. With contact sync features, you can easily transfer your existing contacts onto the platform, which is a nice feature if you already have several clients.
zoom integration features mean you can meet with your clients remotely, and the app offers unique marketing features such a scheduling widget you can add to your website, as well as email drip campaigns, which are useful if you have a monthly newsletter. The client portal makes it easy for you to message and share documents with your patients, and easy for them to pay you anytime. This is a great solution for private practitioners or smaller group practices that need an easy-to-use platform with all the basics.
Pricing: starts at $19/month. Vcita offers a free 14-day trial.
Kareo also offers scheduling, file management, invoicing, and payment processing. Kareo offers flowsheets, mental health templates for client notes, electronic prescribing for controlled substances, and HIPAA risk assessments. Built in ICD-10 coding means you’ll be less likely to submit the wrong information to insurance providers. You can also choose between in-app billing or outsourced billing, depending on the size and complexity of your practice.
Although there are a lot more bells and whistles, the platform is more expensive, and more complex. Kareo offers 60 days of free training, which might be worthwhile if your practice is larger, but might not be as worthwhile if you’re someone with a private practice, especially if you’re a life coach or another professional who doesn’t have to conform to the same industry regulations as a psychologist or registered counsellor. Kareo is also HIPAA compliant.
Pricing: $125/month for all three Billing, Clinical, and Engage features (for providers with less than 50 claims), or $80/month for one of these features. Kareo doesn’t offer a free trial.
While Kareo offers many technical, industry-specific features for all kinds of medical professionals, Therapyzen is more specifically designed for therapists. It also offers scheduling, billing, and payment processing features, and like Kareo, offers templates for notes and intake forms. It has a client portal and staff management features as well.
One of the unique features Therapyzen offers is the ability to consolidate information for couples and family therapy—so it enables you to have notes about individuals which are linked into one file. You can also schedule an appointment with multiple clients at once for family or couples therapy purposes. Therapyzen offers HIPAA-compliant video and diagnosis codes for mental health integrated into its filing system. It doesn’t have the same marketing features as vcita, but does offer a more industry-specific experience, and is simpler to use than Kareo.
Pricing: starts at $42/month, with an additional $9.99 per month for Telehealth features. Therapyzen also offers a 14-day free trial.
4. Therapy Partner
Therapy Partner is similar to Therapyzen in that it’s specifically designed for therapists. It offers similar appointment scheduling, billing, and documentation features, as well as a customized client portal with paperless intake—your clients can sign their form online. It also has a library of all ICD-10 notes, and automated payment processing features similar to Therapyzen.
It doesn’t have remote therapy features or integration with other video conferencing platforms, however. Another thing it’s missing is a mobile app for using the software on the go; it’s the only option on this list that doesn’t have one. Since it’s cloud software, you’ll still be able to access the information from your smartphone, but the experience won’t be as user-friendly. It also doesn’t have the marketing features vcita does, or some of the complexity that Kareo does. Like the other apps, it’s HIPAA complaint.
Pricing: starts at $37/month for one clinician, but doesn’t offer a free trial.
Simple Practice is another all-in-one platform designed specifically for therapists. It offers scheduling, billing, and a client management system, but features enhanced client management for minors. It offers HIPAA compliant telehealth features, with screenshare features so you can share documents with clients remotely. The payment processing features enable you to automatically charge credit cards for recurring appointments.
SimplePractice also has a library of codes for billing purposes, but only the codes from ICD-10 in the DSM-5. One nice feature of the simplepractice website is a library of videos to help you both use the software and set up your practice. While it has similar features to Therapy Partner and Therapyzen, it’s simpler than Kareo and more specialized than vcita. However, it also doesn’t have the same marketing features vcita does.
Pricing: starts at $39/month for the basic plan, but online appointment booking only comes with the $59/month plan, and the telehealth feature is a $10/month add-on. Simplepractice offers a 30-day free trial.
Take your time to decide on what’s right for you
It’s easy to find your heart set on a platform based on its online description, but remember that therapy practices are as unique as the clients they serve. Ideally, software should make your workflow easier rather than make you adjust your workflow to match its features. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to start with a few free trials and see which features you’ll use and which ones you won’t. Remember: just like you, practice management software is here to help!