Short answer? Yes. You can. However, here are some reasons why you may not want to:
It takes more time and work.
There are some universal tasks almost all private practitioners in mental health have to do. For example, we all need some way to keep track of each day’s case load: which clients we see, what we charge, what diagnoses and CPT codes we use, how much each client pays. Some of us also need to be able to give our clients receipts and/or statements for their portion of the bill, either at the session or at some point in the future. Many of us need a way to determine which clients still have outstanding balances after 30, 60 or 90 days. At tax time, we need a way to calculate our total income for the year, including payments from clients, insurance companies, or other payees. We also all need some way to produce a client’s medical record or PHI (Protected Health Information) if we’re required to do so.
In addition to these tasks being responsibilities we all have, the tasks themselves have something in common: they all use data routinely entered when efiling. In other words, if you do your efiling at an insurance company’s website, you’re more than likely going to have to duplicate your efforts in your office and record the same information again, either with paper and pencil and/or with at least one different kind of software, possibly more, to keep your office records up to date.
In contrast, when you have your own EHR, you enter the information once. There’s no duplication of efforts. PSYBooks takes the data you used to efile and re-aggregates it behind the scenes to enable you to use the same data for accounting tasks, to calculate and print statements or receipts, and to produce medical records for any client who needs them.
The learning curve is greater.
Let’s say you have five clients and each of them has a different insurance company. That means that to efile, you essentially have five different EHRs to learn – not just one. That’s five different URLs and logins to keep track of, five completely different systems to learn. In contrast, when you have your own EHR, you learn it once and that’s it. You have a single URL and you login to a system that you use routinely so it stays fresh in your memory.
Also, most insurance company EHRs are intended for all medical professionals, not just those in mental health. Typically, large scale medical EHRs are more difficult to learn than an EHR made just for behavioral health. Going back to the five insurance EHRs example, we can now add that they’re probably not just any five EHRs – more than likely, they’re five fairly difficult EHRs to learn. Many people throw in the towel at this point, feeling that EHRs are just way over their head – not realizing that there are simpler solutions.
Client records are scattered and may be difficult to retrieve.
When you’ve been in practice for at least a handful of years, you’ve probably noticed that clients change insurance companies. They get new jobs, their old jobs offer different plans, etc. If I see client Jane Doe on and off in my practice for ten years, she changes insurance companies several times, and I efile at her insurance companies’ websites, Jane could end up with records scattered all over the place. Also, looking up her older records can be problematic. For example, perhaps Jane requests a copy of her medical record for three years ago when she saw me. If she’s no longer with the insurance company she had three years ago, I may or may not be able to retrieve those records for her. I don’t have any control over how the insurance company manages inactive clients. If you consider that in that same ten year period, I may have encountered 500 clients – many of whom may have switched back and forth among the handful of insurance companies for which I’m a provider, the whole thing starts feeling a little chaotic and out of control.
In comparison, PSYBooks not only keeps all of your client records in one place, it also makes it easy to archive clients you’re no longer seeing and to reactivate them if they return for a few additional sessions. The video below illustrates these features:
Managing Client Files: Digital vs Paper (Video duration: 1:55)
Also, although it’s not shown in the video, when a client changes insurance companies, making the old company inactive and assigning the new company is equally easy. And you ALWAYS have access to older records. They’re right there in your EHR when you need them. When you have your own EHR, unlike filing at insurance company websites, you maintain control of your own records.