I heard an analogy that owning a business is like riding a lion - everyone else sees you doing it and is impressed, and you’re sitting on a lion wondering how you got here and how to stay safe. And while that analogy may be a liiiiittle dramatic, starting and running a business is intimidating! I got little to no education about private practice during my coursework and internship while becoming a dietitian. Much of my knowledge comes from a mixture of trial-and-error, and having really supportive colleagues and mentors who are more than happy to share their input. Today, I’m sharing the online platform I couldn’t run my nutrition private practice without!
SimplePractice - Practice Management & Electronic Medical Records
I tried free trials of multiple practice management platforms before picking one - and ended up switching a few months into my practice. I’d consider the “big three” platforms to be SimplePractice, Kalix, and Practice Better - which is a purely anecdotal observation! There’s certainly more platforms out there, but these are the ones I see mentioned the most in dietitian groups.
The things that were important to me when originally choosing a platform were…
HIPAA-compliant video conferencing capability
Ability to send forms to clients to complete online
HIPAA-compliant & secure messaging options for clients who opt for that vs. emailing as our main method of communication
Having all of these features available for use within a browser, without clients needing to install an app on their computer or phone
And after a few months of using different platforms, more of my business’s needs and my preferences made themselves known (we’re all learning here):
Having a portal/login option where clients can create a username and password to streamline their experience and make things easier
The option to clients to request sessions through the portal
Simple, clean-looking client forms that are concise and easy to read (this was a priority all along, but I didn’t realize it was something I wanted to look at specifically until my forms were formatted strangely when sending through my original platform)
The ability to send all of those forms at once (instead of sending forms one at a time - which led to a lot of confusion, overfilling clients’ email inboxes, and sending duplicate forms/forgetting to send a form)
Integrated billing (the ability to charge clients’ credit cards from within the platform)
Organized client charts that visually separate progress notes from uploaded files from treatment plans from insurance info from… everything else
Enter SimplePractice, which truly lives up to its name! The main thing I love about SimplePractice is just that - its simplicity. It’s easy for me to use on my end, and easy for clients to use! Here’s the thing about having a platform that really does do it all: less steps = less room for human error. Give me a platform that makes everything quick, simple, and relatively automatic and I’m a happy camper (and so are my clients, because it really does keep all the logistics running smoothly!).
Want a trial of SimplePractice? Use my link to get a $50 subscription credit (full disclosure: I’ll also get credit towards my subscription!)
Favorite SimplePractice Features
I’m narrowing it down to a small handful for brevity’s sake, but here are some of my very favorite SimplePractice features that make managing my practice and client files a breeze!
All of my client relationships begin with a phone call where I can hear more about clients’ concerns, why they’re seeking nutrition coaching, and chat about how our work together can support their relationship with food and whole health (email me to book a call!). When we reach the scheduling/logistics portion of our call, it takes me less than 30 seconds to create an account for the client in SimplePractice and send over their forms! It’s so easy that I complete this step while still on the call and explaining to clients how to set up their password and fill out some initial forms.
Speaking of forms, the portal keeps them all in one place - they can be saved and finished later as well! The portal login is also how clients access video calls if we see each other virtually and how clients can request follow-up sessions if we didn’t already schedule one while on the phone or in another session. SimplePractice also has a telehealth app that allows clients to take video calls on their phones from anywhere, which I’ve had several clients use to have sessions during lunch breaks or when away from home!
The bottom line: having a client portal that clients can bookmark and return to simplifies things so nicely for my practice and eliminates work & thought for both my clients and myself!
Everything on SimplePractice is kept under HIPAA-approved lock and key - including credit card information. After asking several of my colleagues exactly how they charge for services (specifically, the logistics - do you keep a credit card reader to plug into your phone? Send invoices? Type in payment info each session?), I narrowed it down to a few thoughts that felt important to how I run my business:
Virtual services are the foundation of my practice, which eliminated the possibility of using a credit card reader to physically swipe a card
It was important to me to use the same system for both virtual and in-office clients for simplicity and consistency (which confirmed that I didn’t want to use a credit card reader in any setting)
I wanted the payment process to be simple and take up minimal time - I didn’t want to use session time to take cards/payment and I didn’t want clients to deal with the mess of paying invoices each time we had a session
Because my cancellation policy does include a late cancellation fee for certain instances, I needed to have some kind of payment information on file to be able to put that policy in place
Between these needs and colleagues’ suggestions, I landed on this system (which many of my RD friends use as well!):
Part of my new client forms include both space to keep a credit card on file, and an explanation/agreement of how I use that payment source - basically, to charge for sessions (and late fees if needed)
At the end of the day, my “housekeeping” checklist includes running payments for the sessions of the day and billing insurance companies if needed
SimplePractice sends receipts to clients and provides tax forms & reports for me
In case you’re wondering how clients feel about this system, the feedback has been nothing but positive! The simplicity of the system as well as removing the awkwardness of discussing payment each and every session are great for everyone involved, and I can of course change out the card on file if clients prefer to use a different payment method.
Here’s how SimplePractice made this process easier…
With my previous platform, I had to manually create a form (still HIPAA secure!) for clients to enter CC info. I then had to manually type that information into a credit card reader/billing system every single time I had a session, which included adding expiration dates, client emails for receipts, etc… it took a while! And more steps = more room for human error. Because SimplePractice has an “integrated” payment information form, payment info is saved in a way that the platform recognizes as a credit card - so all I do is double-check charges and hit “Go!” after sessions.
HIPAA-secure video conferencing was high on my list of priorities, and for transparency - most platforms offer this nowadays! But I’ve found SimplePractice’s videoconferencing to run the most smoothly with the least glitches (things still freeze from time to time but it would happen with any platform & it’s usually no big deal) and ability to take a call from the app means clients can move around and find a place to chat that’s comfortable for them.
Calendar Integration | SimplePractice has the option to push my client schedule through to my Gmail calendar (in a HIPAA secure way that doesn’t add client info to my agenda, don’t worry!) which makes staying organized that much easier.
Help Center & Customer Service | SimplePractice has a huge library of helpful posts about how to do pretty much everything behind-the-scenes! When I signed up for my free trial, I also got an offer to have a video call with a SimplePractice representative - so I quickly added some forms, imported myself as a client, tried some features, and brought allllll my questions to my Q&A call. Between this and a few help tickets I’ve submitted for really specific questions, SimplePractice takes care of everything quickly and takes tons of work off my shoulders.
Autopay | SimplePractice also has the option to enroll clients in Autopay, meaning credit cards get charged automatically at the end of the day (there’s lots of settings for you to control how this happens!). You, the provider, get a summary email at the end of the day (I think mine comes in around 8:30 or 9:00pm) with a list of charges and you have a few hours to make changes as needed - otherwise, all the billing is taken care of for you with zero work on your end! I’ve tried this feature & can 100% appreciate the ease it provides, but the reason I don’t use it regularly is simply because… I go to bed at about 9:00 pm! It’s highly possible you can change the time your summary email comes in (it’s just not something I’ve pursued), I just haven’t found the Autopay feature to provide more convenience than it removed (I’d rather just run through the charges manually than have to remember to check my email, and I definitely don’t want to get out of bed and onto my computer if changes are needed).
Dietitian friends - what software do you use to run your practice? Tell me why you love it!