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In this installment of "Let's Get Technical," our panel of experts reviews three programs that can help practitioners run a psychological practice: SimplePractice, TherapyNotes and Valant.

June 2019

Illustration of laptop computer

The right practice management software can help a psychologist be more organized, efficient and even more appealing to clients. Software packages designed for mental and behavioral health offer resources for paperless practice, streamlined billing and invoicing, and secure effective client communication. “Superior packages make it easy for practice owners to track key metrics and generate financial reports such as cash flow, productivity, outstanding payments, insurance aging, and accounts receivable… all essential to the financial health and growth of any practice,” notes Charmain Jackman, PhD.

Our panel of psychologists share their ratings and reviews of three practice management software packages that practitioners may wish to consider for streamlining their practice administration.

Note: The Psychologist Panel Review Ratings Key is available for reference.




SimplePractice logo  

Review Ratings

4
★★★★☆

4
★★★★☆


TherapyNotes logo  

Review Ratings


★★★☆☆


★★★★☆

Review Ratings

4
★★★★☆

5
★★★★★



SimplePractice logo

SimplePractice is a cloud-based practice management software designed for health and wellness professionals. The software offers a client portal for appointment booking, secure messaging, custom paperless intake forms and progress notes, electronic claim filing, a template library, free appointment reminders (SMS text, voicemail or email), billing and invoicing, and integrated telehealth capabilities.

Overall Review Ratings

4

★★★★☆

—Kristi K. Phillips, PsyD

4 

★★★★☆

—Kevin D. Arnold, PhD, ABPP




Panelist Ratings & Comments

Kristi K. Phillips, PsyD "I would recommend the SimplePractice platform to other psychologists. I was very impressed with the Privacy and Security, extensive features, ease of use and the functionality that makes the software ideal for providing a psychologist in private practice most everything they might need to run the business side of their practice. I think that SimplePractice could be even more effective if they hired trained customer service staff to answer questions regarding the use of the software." —Kristi K. Phillips, PsyD

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Privacy/Security

5 ★★★★★

  • SimplePractice utilizes a HIPAA compliant system architecture with separate web and database environment and offers a Business Associate Agreement for Psychologists (PDF, 282KB)
  • They have received the VeriSign security seal which is at bank-level security. 
  • Information is transmitted utilizing multiple layers of encryption. 
  • The cloud infrastructure uses multi-factor authentication. 
  • For credit card transactions they use a processing system with secure encryption on a PCI compliant network.
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Available Features

5 ★★★★★

  • SimplePractice’s available features makes it stand apart from other office management software. It is designed to fully manage the business and organization side of a clinical practice. 
  • There are features for client scheduling and appointment reminder e-mails, session notes, documents and treatment plans, billing/financials and the capability for HIPAA compliant telehealth. 
  • The client portal allows for paperless intakes. 
  • Invoices and superbills can be emailed to clients right from their cart. The software has an integrated credit card processing feature called Stripe where clients can pay invoices securely if they would like this option.

Panelist Ratings & Comments

Kevin D. Arnold, PhD, ABPP “SimplePractice offers an on-line subscription-based office management, electronic health record, and billing/payment software that provides more than required precautions to protect the privacy of the data. The platform has all the features a practice would normally need. For the cost, this software is more than adequately functional for groups or individual offices unless integrated into primary care, where interoperability is usually necessary. There were some confusing aspects to the features when corresponding with the customer service office compared to the company’s website. Overall, though, the software seems well suited to psychologists; however, when migrating data, one would be well-served to be certain of what data will transfer and any costs associated with cleaning the data set once migrated.” —Kevin D. Arnold, PhD, ABPP

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Privacy/Security

5 ★★★★★

  • SimplePractice provides more than required precautions to protect the privacy of the data. 
  • Policy documents indicate the use of an encryption protocol for both data transmission and storage-in-residence that meets or exceeds HIPAA standards. 
  • They offer a business associate agreement (BAA), but the documentation does not suggest they will modify it or review a different BAA. 
  • Data in their scheduler function can be set to provide the entire patient name or to use disguised identifiers in HIPAA-compliant ways. 
  • Their privacy policy is easiest to find on their app download page on the Apple Store, but it is also included in their general landing page for customer service.
description
Available Features

4 ★★★★☆

  • SimplePractice’s features include many necessary features for an individual psychologist office although its group practice functionality is not as clear from the trial program features. 
  • It offers standardized office policy forms, although since many issues in psychology are unique to a given state’s rules, these documents may have limited utility. 
  • While it does not include an actual accounting software (e.g. Quickbooks), it has some reports for monitoring charges, receivables, payments, etc. 
  • It also has a credit card processing feature with a processing cost structure not unlike those charged by banks on a per-use basis. 
  • It was unclear how the billing files were transmitted to their claims processor within the trial version. Clarity on this issue would be important for those considering SimplePractice since electronic remittance advice payment data integration is a vital time-saver when posting insurance payments made by electronic funds transfers. 
  • SimplePractice does not appear to support dictation within the software itself. 
  • The client portal appears easily accessed and set-up. Patients can be prompted to review documents through the portal, including prior to the initial session so that intake paperwork can be reviewed prior to the first session. 
  • SimplePractice allows for scanned documents (e.g., documents from medical providers) to be placed in the client’s records online. It also allows the psychologist to share documents with the client through the patient portal. 
  • The treatment planning functions offer both templated and more open-ended options. Point-and click treatment planning is associated with Wiley’s treatment series, and allows for selection of specific symptoms, strategies, and treatment protocols in the planning document. The non-Wiley templated plan allows for setting time-lined goals and objectives.


TherapyNotes logo

TherapyNotes is a cloud-based electronic health record (EHR), practice management, and billing software designed for mental health professionals. The software can be utilized for appointment scheduling (by office staff or through a patient portal), to document session notes and update client records, and to create and submit insurance claims.

Overall Review Ratings

3

★★★☆☆

—JoAnna Romero Cartaya, PhD

★★★★☆

Charmain F. Jackman, PhD

Panelist Ratings & Comments

JoAnna Romero Cartaya, PhD "TherapyNotes is a visually pleasant software with good security measures. It provides multiple integrated functions necessary in running a mental health practice and ways to customize its use to the needs of clinicians based on designated roles or practice features (i.e. services offered or logo display); however, it does not include all services that a psychologist may provide (i.e., coaching, neuropsychological evaluation). As TherapyNotes is all web-based if there is an issue with TherapyNotes’ servers or issues with the user’s internet provider, Wi-Fi, etc., the software cannot be used. TherapyNotes team of support provide good unlimited phone support as well as online resources and short CEs in their learning center. Larger practices or clinicians who would like to have one stop shopping for all their practice needs may find the cost reasonable and easier to use as current third-party companies are integrated within the software rather than contracting with multiple companies. If a psychologist has weighed the risks and benefits of an EHR system, reviewed the HIPAA security rule guidelines, and APA guidelines, and evaluated the needs of their practice—and determined an EHR system would be needed—TherapyNotes may be a good software product to try out." — JoAnna Romero Cartaya, PhD


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Privacy/Security

4 ★★★★☆

  • TherapyNotes offers users multiple layers of security measures on their end: HIPAA-compliant software, SSL encryption between communication with web browser and their web servers, full encryption of database, extended validation certificate, audited data with internal controls (i.e. risk assessment procedures, monitoring of the security of IT infrastructure, data storage, and data processing), firewalls to protect their servers and software, regular backups of onsite and offsite data, automatic updates including updates of security features, and access controls that limit access of client data for differing roles within a practice setting.
  • Per the Privacy Policy and the User agreement, while the user retains intellectual property, TherapyNotes will retain server copies of all user data (backing up, debugging, record retention and legal copies) after termination. There is no year length information on how long records will be retained. 
  • Clinicians are responsible for their own informed consent practices and for informing clients of how their data is being stored, risks, etc. for a practice or clinician using TherapyNotes.
  • TherapyNotes has a System Status Page, which lets users know if TherapyNotes is currently on-line and current issues or reported issues with the software, including security breaches.  Fairly transparent with the process of issues with their software as well as informing all users of their response and future planning.
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Available Features

5 ★★★★★

TherapyNotes has multiple features for practices including:

  • Scheduling and appointment management connected to other features within TherapyNotes such as billing, notes, and client files.
  • To-do list that tracks all tasks for users with reminders within client notes or other tasks, so that responsibilities do not fall through the cracks.
  • Charting with proprietary templates for differing specialty areas (i.e. psychiatry vs. psychology).
  • Multiple billing features for in and out of network providers including superbills and statements; and the ability to review real time eligibility of clients' insurance benefits.
  • Client portal for scheduling, sending/signing documents, and sharing treatment plan.
  • File management, including cloud-based storage and web-access 24/7 to TherapyNotes.
  • Ability to assign staff user roles including specialized features for interns, supervisors, and administrative staff.
  • An online portal with CEs through APA and other non-CE training courses available.  Current CEs include Digital Ethics (1 CE APA Credit) and Working with Gender and Sexually Expansive Clients.
If a psychologist has weighed the risks and benefits of an EHR system, reviewed the HIPAA security rule guidelines, and APA guidelines, and evaluated the needs of their practice—and determined an EHR system would be needed—TherapyNotes may be a good software product to try out.
—JoAnna Romero Cartaya, PhD

Panelist Ratings & Comments


Charmain F. Jackman, PhD “TherapyNotes provides a simple, straight-forward platform for clinicians and group practice. The software is web-based and requires an internet connection. All pages are secure (i.e., https) and all data is encrypted. The software is HIPAA-compliant and they include a BAA for providers. It has all the needed components for clinical documentation, billing, appointment management, and some basic revenue and financial reports. You have a free 30-day trial and you can start using the platform immediately. There is customer support available in English and Spanish. TherapyNotes provides a great value for the money and offers reduced fee structures for non-profits and educational/training settings. I have been using TherapyNotes (Education version) for 2 years and have been satisfied with it. It is a great option for practitioners!”—Charmain F. Jackman, PhD

description
Privacy/Security

4 ★★★★☆

  • TherapyNotes has excellent security protocols. All pages are secure (i.e., https) and all data is encrypted. 
  • The software is HIPAA-compliant and they include a BAA for providers. 
  • As a provider, you have the ability to customize your security settings such as length of inactive use, password length and expiration timeframe, and the number of failed login attempts. If you choose to change these defaults, the system will prompt you to agree that you are using security standards that are not recommended. Although TherapyNotes gives you the option to customize your security settings, you will want to fully consider your reasons for changing the security settings and the potential liability you could incur if your patients’ PHI is breached.
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Available Features

4 ★★★★☆

  • TherapyNotes has a number of features that work well for providers. Sample features include: appointment management, patient reminders, scheduling, billing and invoicing, clinical documentation, claims management, insurance aging, patient portal, file managing, and revenue reports.
  • It offers many document templates that providers can use to document their clinical work with patients. However, none of the templates are customizable and they cannot be changed. You are able to customize service codes, diagnosis codes, and document names. 
  • TherapyNotes also provides some productivity reports such as revenue, insurance aging, note count report.



Valant logo

Valant offers a fully-integrated suite of behavioral health management tools for providers including certified EHR with secure patient portal, streamlined intake forms, robust reporting for productivity and revenue cycle, and a library of automatically scored outcome measures.

Overall Review Ratings

4

★★★★☆

—Charmain F. Jackman, PhD

5 

★★★★

—Kevin D. Arnold, PhD, ABPP

Panelist Ratings & Comments

Charmain F. Jackman, PhD “Valant* goes above and beyond with the features it offers in its practice management platform. The financial and productivity reports are excellent and allow practitioners to understand how the business is doing from a finance perspective! The screening tools cut down on wait-time in the office as patients can complete forms at home. With the shift toward value-based care, the ability to track patient outcomes gives providers data they can use to negotiate better reimbursement rates. One drawback of the Valant platform is the outdated user interface. However, Valant is scheduled to have an update within the next 6 months. Given all that Valant has to offer and the cost per practitioner, it is ideally suited for group practices and large enterprises. Solo practitioners, especially those interested in understanding their productivity and other financial metrics (which everyone should be!!) should weigh the benefits versus costs for their practice of this pricier platform.” —Charmain F. Jackman, PhD

*I was only able to access the Valant platform with the support of a team member. Unfortunately, I was not given access to navigate the site independently. Therefore, my comments on functionality will be limited.

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Privacy/Security

4 ★★★★

  • Valant’s platform is HIPAA-compliant and a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is included with all agreements.
  • All pages are secure (i.e., https) and all data is encrypted. Valant ensures secure communications between providers and patients by ensuring that all communications occur only on the Valant platform. Patients receive notifications from the provider, but have to sign in to the patient portal to obtain the information. This extra step ensures that protected health information (PHI) is never sent to patients directly.
  • One missing security feature is the 2-factor verification code, which provides an added layer of security.
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Available Features

5 ★★★★★

Valant stands out among other practice management software with the quantity and utility of the features it offers:

  • Sample features include: appointment management, patient reminders, secure patient portal (with patient messaging), calendar, billing and invoicing, clinical documentation, claims management, file managing, productivity reports (e.g., insurance aging, revenue, patient aging), clinical reports, and professional clinical notes.
  • One missing feature is that patients are not able to initiate an appointment through the patient portal.
  • Valant’s platform is designed for practitioners who value both the clinical and business sides of their practice. For many practitioners (like myself), attending to the business side is often neglected. However, Valant makes it easy for practice owners to track key metrics and generate financial reports such as cash flow, productivity, outstanding payments, insurance aging, and accounts receivable… all essential to the financial health and growth of any practice.
  • Another bonus feature is that Valant has integrated a number of screening forms which providers can use to track patient’s symptom presentation and progress. With the shift toward value-based care, this feature is an important component for both the provider and the patient as it demonstrates outcomes from therapy intervention. Plus, providers can use this data to negotiate reimbursement rates in their insurance contracts.
  • Valant has an additional software, Mobile Notes, which allows providers to generate narrative summaries and clinical summaries quickly. Mobile Notes uses standard statements, with just the push of a button, which then flow into a narrative summary. An added bonus is that information from the outcome measures that were administered prior to the session are seamlessly integrated into the report. As a provider, you are able to customize the narrative reports by using macros to generate statements that you use frequently.

Panelist Ratings & Comments


Kevin D. Arnold, PhD, ABPP “I strongly recommend Valant practice management software. The developers have created an online subscription-based office management, electronic health record, and billing/payment software that takes excellent precautions to protect the privacy of the data. Its features cover everything that a large group or individual psychologist office might need. Valant is easily navigated in the desk-top mode with intuitive side-bar menus and an option to enter the user-friendly mobile notes version. Overall, Valant performs well most of the time, however, there are periods when it is not available for access as it is web-based. Valant customer support is available through both email and telephone. For the cost, this software is highly functional for groups or individual offices. The company states it is close to releasing an updated software. Early reports from a pilot site are that it operates even better than the current version.” —Kevin D. Arnold, PhD, ABPP

description
Privacy/Security

5 ★★★★★

  • It’s encryption of data transmission and storage-in-residence both meet the requirements of HIPAA, and it offers the capacity to integrate its records into other healthcare records (i.e., it is interoperable).
  • They offer a BAA, and their customer service will also consider a practice’s BAA. 
  • They have a privacy policy that is more than adequate, although that does not mitigate a psychologist’s or practice’s requirement to have their own privacy policy as well. 
  • The data in their scheduler function can be exported into existing calendar apps with patient identifying disguised in HIPAA-compliant ways.
description
Available Features

5 ★★★★★

Valant’s features include all necessary features a large group or individual psychologist office might need:
  • It offers two formats: desktop and mobile for managing appointments. The desktop version has a broad set of features such as appointment reports, appointment event history logging (i.e., who did what when to a given appointment), and standing-appointment scheduling. The mobile version is useful for phone or tablet access to the schedule itself but making appointments in that version is a bit cumbersome compared to the desktop version.
  • While it does not include an actual accounting software (e.g. Quickbooks), it has robust reports for monitoring charges, charged units, receivables, payments, etc. These data can be aggregated by provider, carrier, or patient, allowing for most, if not all, needed analyses. 
  • The billing and statement production processes are typical of full-service software, and permit use of either their partnered claims processing vendor or your own vendor. Valant can receive electronic remittance advice from a claims-processor and auto-post payments and denials with the need for labor-intensive keystroking. 
  • The client portal is easily accessed and set-up. A key feature is the capacity to schedule, transmit, and collect clinical outcome measures such as the PHQ-9, which are integrated into the software. Patients, through the portal, can be prompted to log-in and complete these forms in an automated process. 
  • The calendar function permits the psychologist to select from a large number of CPT codes that, when selected and saved, ready the session to be billed through transmission to a claims processor. 
  • The intake templates include the capacity to collect bio-psycho-social data, including medication history and current prescriptions. These data can be tailored into one of the existing session note formats to allow for on-going tracking of medication continuation.
  • Charting is performed in several ways including a dictation-to-text option. There are also templates for patient consults and other, not-session-specific charting needs. 
  • The treatment planning functions offer both an evidence-based template and more open-ended options. The evidence-based template includes ready-made automatically inserted content for standard treatments such as exposure therapy for anxiety, time-lines for goals, and a termination section. 
  • Most practices require maintaining of outside records sent to the provider. Valant allows for these scanned documents to be placed in the client’s records online, along with a basic methodology for classifying different types of third-party records.
  • A useful feature of Valant is the download of client records, which can be performed onto a flash drive when providers leave a practice for them to retain their own copy of the records.

Psychologist Panel Review Ratings Key

(categories rated from 1-5, with 5 being the most positive score)


Privacy/Security If applicable, do the creators acknowledge that providers need to be HIPAA compliant? Is it HIPAA compliant? Do they offer a BAA? Are there other legal/regulatory issues to consider? Is there a privacy policy? Is data collected, stored, shared? Is data de-identified? Is there a security policy? Data encryption? 1- HIPAA relevant and ignored, no privacy policy etc
5- Highest levels of privacy & security
Available Features Does the software have all the features your practice needs? Examples: accounting management, appointment management, billing and invoicing, charting, claims management, client portal, file managing, medication management, treatment planning, etc. 1- Missing many key features
5- Has all the features our practice needs and more
Ease of Use Is it easy to navigate? Is it customizable? 1- Very difficult
5- Very easy
Functionality Does it perform well? Is it web-based? Is there an app? 1- Very poor
5- Very well
Customer Support Is customer support responsive when needed? Do they provide support through the following contact options: Phone, email, online, educational resources, video tutorials  1- Very unresponsive
5- very responsive
Value for Money Does this software provide good value for the money spent?  1- Poor value for money
5- Highly valuable
Overall Rating Would you recommend this software to other psychologists?  1- Strongly do not recommend
5- Strongly recommend

Applications reviewed June 2019



This column discusses various software and applications available to psychologists for their professional use. The views expressed in this column are the views of the authors and do not reflect the views of the American Psychological Association or any of its divisions or subunits. All authors have no financial interests in the apps or software discussed. APA does not recommend or endorse any practitioners, products, procedures, opinions or other information that may be mentioned in this column; those who use these applications or products do so at their own risk. Please direct updates and feedback about apps to Communications Office Staff.

Date created: March 2019

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