One of the biggest challenges of private practice ownership is balancing the many demands on your time. Whether it’s client appointments, office administration, supervisory responsibilities, or just managing the “everything else” category in your practice and your life, your ability to manage your time and workflow is of the utmost importance.
Having a great online calendar can make all of the challenges above much more manageable. There’s always Google Calendar. It works on mobile devices or your laptop, is easy to use, and, best of all, it’s free! But is Google Calendar really the right tool for the job, especially given that client confidentiality is the cornerstone of any private practice?
When it comes to managing your practice calendar, there are several important considerations to think through in order to ensure your calendar is College and PHIPA compliant. Here are some key questions that clinicians have when figuring out their calendar practices, as well as a list of DOS and DON’TS for optimal calendar usage.
1I’m already using Google Calendar for my practice. Is that OK?
That depends on how you’re using it. Like most other Google services, Google Calendar is a service provided free of charge (usually) in exchange for Google being able to analyze the content of your data when using the service. As such, you should be aware of what types of information you’re putting in your Google Calendar, particularly private client information, and how Google might choose to use that information to target ads to you and others.
🙂 DO: Anonymize client information stored in calendar events. A good practice is to anonymize your client names when using Google Calendar. For example, at Owl Practice, we make use of three-letter client codes based on client names, which mean something to you as a therapist, but are not broadly identifying to others (or Google).
🙁 DON’T: Use actual client names and details in Google Calendar events. It’s a bad idea to store actual client information (names, phone numbers) in your calendar events, particularly if those details are associated with a diagnosis, designation or treatment (e.g. “Special Needs Assessment”).
2Using Google Calendar is great, but how do I connect my calendar to invoicing and note taking?
Calendaring is only one of the needs you have in running a private practice. You also need to save time by having an efficient billing process, and streamlined, backed-up note taking. Using a proper tool for managing practice life (like Owl’s practice management system!), in conjunction with Google Calendar, can save you time and let you get back to what’s really important.
🙂 DO: Use a practice management system that can sync to Google Calendar, like Owl’s practice management system.
🙁 DON’T: Use Google Calendar to track your invoicing and payments or (especially!) clinical notes. It’s not a tool designed to track this type of information. Trying to jury-rig a billing or note-taking process into a stand-alone calendar is bound to create inaccuracies, privacy issues, and ultimately, upset clients.
3How do I maintain confidentiality when booking appointments in front of clients?
You don’t want one client seeing appointment details for another client inadvertently when booking an appointment. Always make sure that you anonymize client information in your calendar if there is any chance a client may see this information when you’re booking an appointment with them. One solution is to use client codes, like we do at Owl Practice, to ensure that the information is identifying to you, but would otherwise look random to your clients.
🙂 DO: Anonymize client information when directly booking appointments with clients.
🙁 DON’T: Include identifying personal information (names, phone numbers, etc.) and information on a therapeutic modality or presenting issue in your calendar.
4How can I integrate my personal Google Calendar and my Owl Calendar so I can stay organized?
Using a secure practice management system like Owl Practice is a great way to securely retain all client information and records, and it’s now possible to integrate your practice calendar with the rest of your life calendars! Using Owl’s new External Calendar Integration feature, you can now “push” an anonymized version of your practice calendar to Google (or other calendar of choice), so you can have all your calendars together in one place. Most importantly, Owl only shares anonymized calendar data with your Google Calendar (or other calendar), so client privacy is never compromised.
🙂 DO: Anonymously sync your practice calendar with your personal Google Calendar using a robust calendar sync feature, like Owl Practice’s external calendar integration!
🙁 DON’T: Double-enter your practice calendar manually into your “life” calendar in Google, or vice versa. This is inefficient, unnecessary, and potentially insecure.
5How can I access my calendar securely while on the go?
As a practice owner, you lead a very busy life! You need to be able to stay connected to your calendar on the go and in real-time.
🙂 DO: Have distinct calendars for your personal and professional schedules that you can view together on one calendar.
🙁 DON’T: Try to manage your entire life in a single calendar.
Follow these tips above, using an appropriate calendar tool, and you can ensure that your practice is safe, secure, and organized.