Joan began her career in the helping professions as a nurse in small town New England. A critical shortage of obstetric facilities and practitioners motivated her to specialize as a midwife eventually opening a private practice that thrived for many years. But vulnerable populations pressed in from all sides, and Joan went back to school to get her MSW, enabling her, as she saw it, to respond to need wherever she found it. A few years later she returned to school again to become a Nurse Practitioner and work in the field of behavioral health.
"That's when I decided to open my own office and treat patients in crisis from the general population. I hung out my shingle and was immediately deluged with patients that felt like a tidal wave I couldn't turn back. I didn't even have a receptionist. I worked 16 hours a day, six days a week, and tried to organize my case notes and billing on the seventh without much success. Things got quickly out of control, and I had to close down after three months."
The Sole Practitioner
The impulse to go it alone resides quietly but surely in every sole practitioner. It's a curious combination of leadership and rebellion that blends in the independent psyche, often leading to ill-advised heroics. "Taking on more than I can handle has been one of the themes of my life, " Joan reported during our interview. "I think it's caused by enthusiasm, not ambition. I am touched by need and vulnerability and immediately want to help. And, I admit, I don't want anyone to interfere. I guess that's why I go it alone."
The First Step
After Joan closed her office, she consulted with case management software providers to discover a platform that she could use to manage the complex paperwork needed to document cases, coordinate providers, follow-up referrals, develop a treatment plan, schedule appointments, and bill insurance companies and appropriate government agencies. She had no illusions of being able to afford clerical or office help at this stage. She still wanted to "go-it-alone". Most of the providers she researched were either too expensive, too complex, too rigid, or too agency-centric for her to utilize in her daily practice.
"I needed a consultant. I wasn't going to be able to buy something right out of the box that would work for me. So, I contacted a friend of mine who had already set up case management software for her practice and seemed to be doing fine. She recommended that I talk to someone at GVT and that's how I ended up meeting you guys."
"No one I talked to advised me to select GVT or FAMCare as my platform. I must say, that impressed me. Rather, our discussions centered around the following considerations:"
- Sole practitioners may select a platform because it is inexpensive. Although platforms may perform similar tasks, they are not all equal. Instead, functionality and desired tools should play a major role in the selection process.
- The private practitioner should first determine what tools they desire in their platform and take the opportunity to test several affordable platforms prior to purchasing one in order to learn which one best fits the needs of their practice.
- Practices may be too focused on costs to the point that it leads to poor results.
- If you are running a private practice, you need to be sure you’re keeping your overhead costs in check, usually shooting for under 10% to 15% of your expected income.
- In addition to cost, practices must determine how the platform will integrate with any current system they are using. Will it have the functionality needed to perform the requested tasks and interact with the practice’s other processes?
- Functionality entails being able to access the platform both in the office and on the road or at home, as well as having one with integrated, HIPAA-compliant tele-health.
- Security is another major consideration. A platform hosts a significant amount of client data. Practitioners need to ensure that they are taking all necessary precautions to keep that data safe while also accessible to both users and clients (as appropriate).
- Finally, consider the amount of support the vendor can provide. No product has ever worked seamlessly from start to finish. A platform should include a support team that can answer questions in a clear and helpful manner.
"I ended up reopening my office and going it alone. This time, however, the case management software I selected saved me from myself."
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You can read more about how our case management software, FAMCare, has made a difference for other agencies under Case Studies in The FAMCare blog.