Most therapists spend quite a bit of time going back and forth trying to schedule their potential clients and current clients in.
Do the following resonate?
- You’re worried you are losing a lot of clients because of missed connections on the phone.
- You’re not sure your emails about scheduling are getting through to your potential clients or clients.
- You know that text messaging is something clients like but it feels impossible to get enough information from clients to schedule them through text.
- You feel overwhelmed with current clients who need to change things around all the time.
- Almost all of your scheduling stuff requires a ton of back and forth.
These will ring true for therapists who are not yet using an online scheduling software.
It’s True: You Could Be Missing Out On New Clients
Research proves that the quicker you reply to sales inquiries, the more sales you will get.
As true as that data point might be, it doesn’t stop you from hating the phone or dreading spending hours writing emails.
A lot of therapists feel exhausted by sales calls, sales emails, and the back-and-forth required to get scheduling done.
If scheduling was a house chore, it would be the overflowing laundry bin of your practice. Constantly needing care and boring and menial to do.
If your exhaustion with sales and scheduling is preventing you from getting it done consistently, you could be missing out on new clients.
Get A Full-Time, 24/7 Employee For Scheduling
If being highly responsive to incoming clients can help you get more clients, imagine what a full-time, 24-7 sales employee could do for growing your practice!
So why not go ahead and hire? And by that I mean: hire an online scheduling software as that employee.
A scheduler allows your potential clients and current clients to schedule themselves in. It’s there day and night, super reliably, and it pretty affordable too!
When we face a problem in our business, the first “hire” that makes sense is software. Paired with systems and automations, you can add both more ease and more revenue: who doesn’t want to work less and make more?
Plus, Online Schedulers Inspire Hope
In addition to helping increase the ease you’ll have with your practice growth and management, online schedulers also serve practical and emotional needs that your website visitors have.
Consider this: if I am seeking out therapy services, it is likely I am in a state of crisis. I need help, and fast.
If you have a great website that really speaks to the visitor’s pain and they are interested in moving forward, what is the most immediate way for them to start feeling like they are getting help?
Having the option of an online scheduler means that they can easily get the help they need. The moment someone has scheduled themselves in, it gives them a sense of instant hope:
They go from pain to knowing that you’ll be there to help them on Thursday of this week at 10:00am.
They have help scheduled, so it’s real. And the felt sense of that is real too.
Being able to schedule themselves in helps with feeling like they are already moving in the right direction: towards hope and healing and away from what’s troubling them.
Disclaimer: The following is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always do research for yourself and contact a legal professional for guidance before acting on this, or any, HIPAA information.
You Need A HIPAA Compliant Online Scheduler For Current Clients
For most therapists, there are two different categories of clients that need to schedule with you: prospective or incoming clients and current clients.
Before we jump into exploring some of the gray areas, know that it’s very important to make the distinction between these two categories and handle each appropriately as it has HIPAA implications.
If a client is already a client, their information is treated as protected health information, aka PHI. This means that to be protected under HIPAA, any software that you use to transmit and store their PHI needs to enter into a BAA with you.
So concisely speaking: PHI, or protected health information, is what needs to be protected. Under HIPAA, you can’t handle PHI with software that isn’t covered by a BAA and meeting other basic digital security requirements.
For current clients, you need to use schedulers that execute a BAA.
The Gray Area: Is Prospective Client Information PHI?
Prospective or incoming client’s information isn’t as clearly considered to be PHI as current clients information is.
The answer to whether or not prospective client information is PHI is actually in a gray area. Some argue that prospective client information is PHI and some argue it isn’t.
How To Determine If You Need A Scheduler With A BAA
Some schedulers offer BAAs and others don’t. The question of whether or not you need a scheduler with a BAA comes down to making the following determination:
- If prospective client information is NOT PHI, then you can use a scheduler without a BAA.
- If prospective client information is PHI, then you need to use a scheduler with a BAA
So should you consider your prospective client’s information to be PHI? Here are the three ways to navigate answering this question for yourself:
- Read the codes, ethical guides, and regulations under which you operate. Where do they stand on the treatment of prospective client information?
- Did you get advised by an attorney that prospective client’s information is not PHI in the case of using an online scheduler?
- Do you have high risk tolerance?
Let’s discuss each of these in more depth.
1. What do codes, ethical guides, and regulations under which I operate say about prospective client information being PHI?
Every license is different and the states or regions in which therapists operate can be different too.
As an example though, it seems like the ACA code of ethics does put prospective client information in the same bucket as current client information. The ACA considers prospective client information to be PHI. Consider this quote pulled from the code from Roy:
To wit, from the shiny new 2014 ACA Code of Ethics:
B.1.b. Respect for Privacy
Counselors respect the privacy of prospective and current clients. Counselors request private information from clients only when it is beneficial to the counseling process.
B.1.c. Respect for Confidentiality
Counselors protect the confidential information of prospective and current clients. Counselors disclose information only with appropriate consent or with sound legal or ethical justification.
– American Counseling Association, 2014 (emphasis Roy’s)
So according to the ACA: you should only use an online scheduler that executes a BAA because prospective client information is PHI just as current client information is.
Even if some codes recommend treating incoming and potential client information as PHI, some continue to argue that it’s not PHI if someone isn’t a client yet.
It makes sense to research what guidelines exist out there for you to ensure you are complying and keeping your prospective client information safe.
2. Advice From Attorney
If you get an attorney’s opinion and they say it’s acceptable to gather prospective client information in a scheduler that is not executing a BAA with you, then you lower your own risk.
3. Do you have high risk tolerance?
That said, if you use an online scheduler that does not execute a BAA, you take some level of risk still. Some HIPAA professionals would say that the risk is low, but it’s not zero.
So, Can Therapists Use Online Schedulers That’s Aren’t Executing A BAA?
If you researched the guidelines for your license and they don’t consider prospective client information to be PHI, if you then set up a scheduler so that it is only for a first consultation call with prospective clients, if you had an attorney say it’s ok, and if you have high risk tolerance where you’re ok with the possibility of legal issues down the road for potentially mishandling incoming client information, you can use a non-BAA scheduler option.
How To Stay Out Of The Gray Area: Use Schedulers That Execute BAAs
If you want to stay out of the gray area, go with a scheduler with a BAA or use the scheduler in your EHR.
Schedulers For Prospective Clients Who Need A Consultation Call Or First Session
Scheduler Options That Don’t Execute BAAs
WARNING: If You Opt For A Non-BAA Scheduler, You Are Still Responsible For Ensuring Current Client’s Don’t Use It.
If you opt to use a non-BAA-ed scheduler option for prospective clients, you’ll want to take extra care never to allow your current clients to schedule through that scheduler.
Remember: your current clients’ information is PHI and cannot and should not interact with software that is not covered by a BAA.
Here are the best tips we have to ensure your current clients don’t use your non-BAA scheduler:
- Make it clear in the scheduler that you can only schedule a first appointment or consult call.
- Link to a page with more information on the page that is very clearly speaking to prospective clients
- Write that the scheduler is for new clients only
- You also need to make it crystal clear that it’s not for current client use. Perhaps writing, “Current clients should not use this scheduler. Instead, please schedule in your client portal.” or something similar.
Scheduling Software Options That Execute BAAs
Schedulers For Prospective or Current Clients
For scheduling from your website with current clients, use an EHR.
Easy enough to do if you already have one. Either link to the client portal, where you may have already onboarded them into it, or use a embeddable booking feature if it’s provided.
Most EHRs have schedulers. Some examples:
Recap With 2 Common Questions And Answers
Can a therapist use a free scheduling software like Calendly?
Not for their current clients because it doesn’t execute a BAA which is a basic requirement for software that will transmit and store client PHI.
But when it comes to prospective clients, the use of scheduling software like Calendly falls into a gray area: prospective client information may or may not be PHI, if a therapist has the ok from their attorney or has a high risk tolerance, then a non-BAA scheduler like Calendly could be for them.
How can a therapist put a scheduler on their website?
To put a scheduler on their website, a therapist should evaluate if they will need a scheduling software that executes a BAA or not. From there, they can check out the options that match their digital security requirements. In some cases, a therapist’s EHR may be the best bet and for other therapists, they can check out schedulers that execute BAAs and one’s that don’t – depending on their individual needs.
All online scheduling software will offer the ability to either be embedded directly on the website or be linked to from the website.
Where To Put The Scheduler Link
Ok! You’ve chosen your right-fit scheduler and want to add it to your website. Next up: link to it from your website.
Where to put the scheduler link/button for prospective clients:
- In the header and footer: putting a link or button to your scheduler in the header and footer means that it will be persistently within reach at all times for your website visitor. Pair it with a brief phrase or sentence of what a visitor can expect when they click it and you’re all set. E.g., “Get your free consultation” or “Schedule Your First Session”
- On the contact page: the contact page is your opportunity to offer your website visitors more information about how to get your help. Write a 2-3 sentence paragraph about what to expect when they click on the “scheduler” link and include the link.
Where to put the scheduler link/button for current clients:
If you are simply adding the scheduler to your website so that your current clients have the ability to book themselves in and easily find their way to your scheduler ongoing: then your scheduler link is a utility item, and NOT a sales item.
Utility items on websites are those things that provide customers easy access to the deeper parts of your services. They aren’t items that help a prospective client get started but rather for already existing clients to have an easeful ongoing experience with getting your services.
The best places then to put a link to scheduling that is moreso for current clients is a footer menu. That way, you can always let your current clients know, “Hey if you ever need to reschedule, you can always find the link to my scheduler in the footer of my website. Just click and log into the portal and you can see and manage your sessions from there.”
Schedulers Are Better For Everyone
It might feel overwhelming to consider your digital security needs in a scheduling software and determine how to proceed but schedulers are so worth it.
Schedulers provide a great experience for the incoming client, your current clients, and also for you. You deserve to have more time and ease in your day.
Imagine not playing phone tag and instead just watching interested-in-your-services clients schedule THEMSELVES in without you lifting a finger. Or quitting the phone tag.
For clients it also helps them feel a sense of relief instantly. They put something on their calendar that will help them with a painful life situation they are facing. Nothing inspires hope like having help scheduled in.
If you’ve been considering setting up a scheduler, I hope this guide helps you consider the digital security implication of the available options so that you can choose a way forward that’s best for you.