Today I am talking all about email and this 30 second hack that will allow you to keep consistent time boundaries with families.
So real talk? Some mornings I get into the office before 7am. Yup, two days a week my first client of the day is a bright-and-early 7am time spot.
And, this is actually one of my most sought after time spots so kids (and parents) can have their therapy before the school (and work) day starts. AND I also only reserve it for young people who are able to function and be engaged at this time.
So what does this mean? Sometimes I need to send an email off at 6:38 am.
Now, before this hack - let’s talk HIPAA. Some therapists don’t use email with clients because of concerns about HIPAA and confidentiality. So what does HIPAA say about email?
Check out HIPAA’s policies on email HERE, including the excerpt below:
“Patients may initiate communications with a provider using e-mail. If this situation occurs, the health care provider can assume (unless the patient has explicitly stated otherwise) that e-mail communications are acceptable to the individual. If the provider feels the patient may not be aware of the possible risks of using unencrypted e-mail, or has concerns about potential liability, the provider can alert the patient of those risks, and let the patient decide whether to continue e-mail communications.”
Okay, so in my practice I encourage all PHI conversations to go through my secure client portal, talk about the risks of email at intake, and include it in my informed consent.
The reality is, parents still want to email me about symptoms or to give me information. Check out the top three reasons parents email HERE!
So you either have to create and have clients sign a consent form for non-secure contact and manage the HIPAA liability OR consider an encrypted email service.
If you are stuck in this place in your practice you should definitely consider Paubox. Paubox is the easiest way to rest easy with a HIPAA Compliant email system that has email encryption and security you can set and forget.
No portals. No passcodes. No hassle. AND if you sign up using this link HERE you get a $250 account credit!
Now that we have the HIPAA email stuff sorted out let’s get back to that time boundary hack!
The reality of owning my own practice is that sometimes email responses need to slip out of the boundaries of when my scheduled client office hours are. I let clients know that I am in the office and can be reached between 8 and 4, but oftentimes I am with clients all day and it may take me 48 business hours to return emails and calls.
Since I have small chunks of time before my first client of the day and sometimes with urgent matters after my last client leaves, these emails may be sent outside of the window of communication.
So my hack? Schedule send!!!
If you aren’t using the feature in your practice it is a game changer! With my email account through Google I can choose if I want to send an email immediately or schedule it for a certain day and time.
And for those odd before or after business hours I am always scheduling.
And it might not seem like a huge deal, but it can make a significant difference with client expectations.
Let’s go a little deeper. Let’s say you have a parent that emails you about something that you need to respond to and you end up emailing back at 8pm.
Even though in your intake session and paperwork you have clearly stated when you are available for communication during your office hours, this client may now develop the expectation that you will respond to emails the same day, at night, or during the weekends.
This can be pretty problematic if they have an issue that they feel is urgent and you aren’t checking in on your email or responding. It could be that they now perceive that you aren’t supporting them because you aren’t responding, which is definitely not the case!
I typically schedule my emails in the evening for the next day and my early morning emails for sometime after my first client of the day starts. If we can help clients understand when we will communicate with them we don’t risk them feeling like one issue was “important enough” for us to respond to outside of hours and other issues aren’t.
This can massively help maintain rapport and trust with clients and families!
It also goes without saying that if a client is communicating about a safety issue we likely already have a plan in place for crisis resources and have agreed that all crisis calls are going to the stated crisis resources.
Now, I wanted to send another resource your way that might be helpful to help you get back some of that precious free time - The 5 Minute Note Course! The 5 Minute Note gives you support on all things progress notes.
Learn to shrink your note writing process to write effortless and effective notes within your therapy day! This course includes all the details, guides, and cheat sheets to help you know what to write and how to write it. AND includes templates and cheat sheets specifically for progress notes for play therapy! Check out more HERE!
AND if you were thinking about Paubox grab this link HERE for a $250 account credit!
This page contains affiliate links, so I may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through the links on this site. The best news? It doesn’t cost you a penny and with these resources – you actually get more money back in your pocket!
I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,