May 4, 2020
In this episode, Rob Reinhardt from Tame Your Practice joins Gordon to talk about the importance of having a contingency plan in private practice. First, Rob explains the difference between a contingency plan and a professional will. Plus, he reveals the first things you will need to do when thinking about your contingency plan, including considering who will be on your emergency response team. Rob highly recommends having another mental health professional on your team, rather than a family member. Later, Rob speaks about all the things you will need to inform your emergency response team about. If you need more assistance with your plan, get Rob’s book Private Practice Preparedness: The Health Care Professional’s Guide to Closing a Practice Due to Retirement, Death, or Disability (use code WF44M for 15% off the ebook).
Rob Reinhardt, LPCS, M.Ed., NCC has his own successful counseling practice and is CEO of Tame Your Practice. Known for his expertise in reviewing and recommending EHRs for therapists, Rob previously worked in Information Technology for over ten years and has lived around technology his entire life.
Mental health professionals usually don’t have a contingency plan. If something happens to a private practice owner, what is the spouse going to do? The owner is in charge of helping all of these people get informed about the situation. Plus, there are all of the records to deal with. There’s all of this business to take care of. If there were no plans, an attorney would have to help them through it.
It’s not just what happens when you die; there could be lots of reasons that you need a contingency plan. For instance, you need a plan in case you decide to retire or in case you find some fantastic job opportunities that you can’t turn down. What if your family decides to move across state lines? That would change everything. You might have to take an extended leave of absence to care for an ill family member. There’s any number of reasons that draw you away from your practice and require you to have this plan in place.
Well, there are not many resources out there for private practice owners to create the plan. And that’s when Rob decided to sit down and write Private Practice Preparedness: The Health Care Professional’s Guide to Closing a Practice Due to Retirement, Death, or Disability with Nancy Wheeler. They talk about how to make the plan and provide some templates that you can fill in your information and have that plan.
Many people talk about a professional will in this context. The reason Rob doesn’t say professional will a lot, and instead, he talks about a contingency plan is because the professional will tends to be focused on if you die. Plus, it also tends to be focused on the business aspects of private practice. Some people do incorporate other things into the professional will, but not everything will be covered. For instance, what if somebody needs to get into your G Suite? What if somebody needs to get into your EHR? These are the kinds of details that often aren’t included in something like a professional will. So, make sure you’re covering all these things that someone would need to address if someone else has to care of business. There are so many things that you do that are connected to your practice that are in your head. However, you never really bothered to write down or explain it to anybody else.
Get Rob’s book, Private Practice Preparedness: The Health Care Professional’s Guide to Closing a Practice Due to Retirement, Death, or Disability, and go through it. Rob would step back and make a list of all these things that he does. Including all of the things that he doesn’t even really think about. They’re second nature to him. Think about what are all the things that you do, and if you weren’t there, who would do them? As you are making a list, think about doing these things, how are you doing them, and what are you doing them with?
In other words, what tools are you using? Are you using G suite a lot? Some people have electronic health records, and they have bank accounts for their business. So, make a list of what are all the tools that you use, and how do you access those tools? Then, it can get even more detailed. So one example is electronic health records. We’re talking about protected health information here. It may not just be enough that somebody has your login and password information. You may want to have them set up in that EHR as a confirmed user. And in fact, some of the electronic health record systems have that as part of their programs.
Rob advocates firmly using two-factor authentication. So that means you’re not just entering a username and password, but you’re often entering a code that you either receive via text or through an authentication app. It’s an extra layer of security to be sure that if someone gets your username and password, they can’t impersonate you and get into this sensitive data.
Plus, who is your emergency response team? That’s the terminology Rob uses in his book. How is your emergency response team going to get that authentication data? The key is that you identify these workflows, how do you access the information, what information do you use, and how do you make sure that your emergency response team knows all of this? When Rob says an emergency response team, that could be a team of one, it could be a team of 10. It depends on your practice and what your needs are and so forth. So a solo practitioner may only have a team of one or two people to back them up.
You want to identify your emergency response team, whether that’s an individual or a group of people, and you want to make sure you talk to them, and you set an agreement and give them everything they need to know. So, at a moment’s notice, they can jump in and take over. Many people do mutual agreements. They will be your backup, and you will be their backup. Get that established so that they know that they’re the backup; it should never be a surprise. Plus, they should know where to find the information if they need to jump in and take care of business.
Also, make sure they are a mental health professional. Some people want it to be their family members. Especially when you’re talking about a professional will, it may be fine and well, but it’s essential to consider having a knowledgeable mental health professional take care of business. They have the clinical knowledge; they have the experience of things like HIPAA and ethics that a family member is not likely to have. They’re going to step in and know what’s essential and how to take care of the records. That’s a crucial facet of deciding who’s going to be on your response team.
Another reason why it’s crucial to have a mental health clinician involved in this emergency response team because they may be providing some counseling as they help transition people to a new care provider. What does this emergency response team need to do? Apart from your day to day routine activities, how are they going to communicate this to clients? It’s essential to have already identified some clinicians that would be a good fit for the particular clients that you work with. Make sure those clinicians are aware that they are a part of your transition plan. Those clinicians need to know how to contact your clients, what to tell them, and the list of providers to make them aware of.
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Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog. He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer, and writer. PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. Follow us on Twitter @therapistlearn and Pinterest “Like” us on Facebook