By now, you must’ve heard of (and own) smart devices. They are those phones and tablets (and watches, thermometers, digital assistants, etc.) that, mostly through the combination of hardware capability and a reliable internet connection, are able to do relatively complex functions that can take the place of many common office appliances. With this increased capability literally in the palm of your hand, smart devices might be able to save a clinician money, office space, and backache! So here are five ways your smart device can aid your practice.
Note: Websites, apps, programs, etc. mentioned in this blog is not to be understood as endorsements by the author or by Keenaesthete.com.
1. Phone Services. The phone-cum-voice mail service has become an indispensible part of any clinical practice. Year after year, phone companies seem to find reasons to add another tax or surcharge on your phone bill. Why not consider shifting to a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service such as Google Voice, Skype, Vonage and other similar companies. Depending on the service provider, you can get an actual phone number, voice mail, and text or email voicemail alerts. These services tend to charge a cheaper monthly fee or a per use set fee. If you already have a cell phone with free minutes, it’s as if you have an office phone system for free since you can receive calls without paying, and can call clients back using your free minutes! HIPAA concerns? There are VoIP companies that specialize in offering compliant telephony services, that may still come out cheaper in the long run.
2. Office Appliances. For almost any appliance you can imagine in the standard therapist office, there’s an app for that. Do you need a scanner, there’s an app for that. Do you need a fax machine, there’s an app for that. Do you need a copier, word processor, email mailbox, flashlight? Most probably, there’s an app for that! You get the picture. Especially if you foresee only an occasional use for a certain appliance (e.g., a fax machine for faxing release of information consent forms), you might consider just using your smart device to fulfill that function. Smart devices can also process credit and debit card payments (with the proper attachment and payment service). No more need for a separate telephone line and card reading machine. Finally, with the developing “smart device” economy, you smart phone can help you remotely monitor and manipulate your office’s temperature, electricity use, security systems, etc.
3. Marketing. Especially for people starting out in private practice, marketing can be just as important if not more important than actually providing therapy since a majority of your clients will probably come from referrals from other professionals. Your smart devices are capable to help you develop your own website or update your profile on search engines (e.g., PsychologyToday) and social networks (e.g. LinkedIn). New to a particular area? Do an online search of professionals you might like to contact and invite them for a business lunch. Look up a good restaurant with Yelp, and reserve a table for two through Open Table all through your smart device.
4. Psych Testing/Interventions. While smart devices are not yet able to substitute for full-batteries of psychological testing and assessment, they are able to help measure and track clinically significant elements relevant to clinical work. For example, you can encourage clients that use a mood tracker app to help increase their awareness ability to regulate their mood. There are also a host of apps available to help implement behavioral strategies on clients with attention and conduct problems. Of course, the big testing companies are now releasing suites for the most popular psychological and neuropsychological instruments out there. Never a substitute for the therapeutic dyad, smart devices might be able to provide additional information and out-of-the-office interventions that can benefit the in-room treatment.
5. Telepsychology/Telepractice. While additional research needs to be done on the effectiveness of telepsychology (some early research has shown positive results), many clinicians are looking forward to harnessing the power of video calling over the internet as either an adjunct or substitute to in-person therapy. Some entrepreneurial clinicians have even developed businesses around providing care by licensed (such as Talkspace.com) and non-licensed (such as Frame.care) providers using these types of technology. Ten years ago, this meant having a whole computer set-up with a video camera, microphone and speakers. Today, all those can be found within your smart device. Perhaps all you need to add to your device is a good stand (so that your arms won’t feel tired carrying it all the time!).
Are you already using smart devices in your practice? How are you using them? Or might you feel uncomfortable using them? Share your thoughts, comment below or on Facebook!
P.s., It goes without saying that one needs to stay updated on the laws and professional mandates that regulate the use of any new technology including smart devices. For example, the American Psychological Association has announced that telepsychology can only be provided to clients residing in the state where a psychologist is licensed.