Electronic Practice Management and
the Computer-Based Patient Record
Practitioners can now rely on computers to handle the more mundane tasks associated with clinical practice. Chances are, most offices have a reasonably up-to-date computer, printer, and modem to connect to the Internet. They probably also have a facsimile (fax) machine or a fax program integrated into a computer. Of course, telephones are standard, but depending on the size of the office, the telephone system might include a messaging service that connects several people, such as an office manager, a billing specialist, and/or other practitioners, throughout the office system. An office might also have a copy machine, or at least a fax machine that can make copies. Although we will not give recommendations about any of this hardware, we do recognize that these elements are considered basic equipment for a modern mental health office.
We assume that the reader either has a desktop or laptop computer or is considering such a purchase. Software packages are designed to operate on almost any kind of computer, but some packages are specifically developed for either a Macintosh or a PC only. Be sure to thoroughly investigate the software package's requirements if you have not yet purchased a computer.
This chapter looks more closely at the various practice management systems that the everyday clinician uses. The first half of the chapter focuses on how practice management software can help centralize and streamline administrative and backoffice operations. The second half covers the new and important topic of the computerbased patient record (CPR).
A number of stand-alone computer programs developed in the past several decades are available for the mental health practitioner. New developments are most often advertised in the classified and display sections of the American Psychological Association's Monitor, Psychiatric News, Psychiatric Times, NASW Newsletter, National Psychologist, Counseling Today, and similar newsletters, bulletins, and publications for other mental health disciplines. Booths of product displays appear at most national conferences. Experienced conference attendees know, however, that such booths are rarely crowded with practitioners sampling programs.
Despite this seeming lack of enthusiasm, practice management systems can accelerate communications, transactions, and document agreements, and also can decrease