350 Transcript

Dr. Jeremy Sharp Transcripts Leave a Comment

[00:00:00] Hello everyone. Welcome to the Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.

This podcast is brought to you by PAR.

PAR offers three co-normed tests to assess memory in youth, the ChAMP, the MEMRY, and the MVP. Used together, they provide comprehensive information about memory and performance validity. Learn more at parinc.com\memry.

Hey everyone. Welcome back. Glad to be here with you. Today’s a business episode talking about everyone’s favorite topic: How do you streamline your evaluation process?

This is probably a number one question that comes up again and again in the Facebook group: How do I streamline report writing?

There are so many ideas and strategies out [00:01:00] there for getting more efficient with the evaluations, but it is hard to keep track of them all. So this episode is an attempt to aggregate some of the top strategies that I use and my colleagues use to streamline the evaluation process. So if you’re struggling with all the work involved to complete an evaluation, this is for you. Let’s go ahead and get to it.

All right, let’s dive right in and get down to it.

Evaluations are admittedly a labor-intensive process that honestly puts significant demands on your executive functioning. There are so many steps to keep track of, so much focus that you have to maintain, and [00:02:00] serious brain power and self-control required to do the quality work of data synthesis and conceptualization that we are getting paid to do, especially these days as there are more and more tools to automate things. What we are supposed to be focusing on is conceptualizing the data and making quality recommendations.

The question is, how is a clinician to keep up with all these demands? Well, I think there are a few, what I would call heavy hitters in terms of strategies that can really move the needle if you can implement them effectively. So let’s talk through a few of those.

For me, they basically group into two categories. One is scheduling and the other is software. Let’s talk about scheduling first.

Now, there are a ton of strategies with scheduling. I’ve done a number of episodes on scheduling in terms of time [00:03:00] blocking, day theming, how to structure your schedule, that sort of thing, but here are a few of the big-picture changes that I think can make a big difference in the flow of your evaluations.

The first principle is to schedule consistently and let your intakes drive the show. You may have heard me say before that intakes are the gateway drug. What I mean by that is, the more intakes you schedule, the more testing you’re going to do, the more testing you’re going to do, the more writing you’re going to do. And so simplifying your schedule can really just come back to how many intakes you schedule.

So if you decide how many evals you want to do in a month or in a quarter, I suppose, I would probably stick with month because smaller time increments are going to make things more manageable. I would decide how many [00:04:00] evals you want to do in a month and just book that many intakes. If you can break it down even further and plan how many evals it’s going to be per week, even better.

For example, in our practice, I know that our clinicians are going to do eight evals in a month, so that breaks down to two intakes per week. And then from there, you schedule testing and feedback on a rolling basis as you do intakes. If you keep the intakes under control, the other appointments stay under control by default because you can’t test someone who you didn’t see for an intake. So if you titrate your intakes, that’s going to control everything from that point.

A big place that people get stuck, and while this is even a question, why are people even asking the question of how do I streamline my evaluations and my report writing? Well, it’s because they’re behind on report writing. So, [00:05:00] if you titrate your intakes, that can help a great deal. And then you don’t put yourself in a place to get behind and have tons of reports to write all at once. So there are two components. It’s only scheduling the intakes and it’s scheduling the number of intakes that you actually want to see that actually correspond to your target caseload.

The second principle that I’ll talk about is day theming. The idea behind day theming is that you are doing essentially the same task on any given day and you’re not task switching because task switching is a pretty heavy cognitive load and it absolutely decreases efficiency when you’re trying to switch back and forth between tasks. We know this.

So how do you day theme? You put similar activities on the same day and you only do those activities [00:06:00] on those days. So this helps keep your mind fresh and helps you keep your focus. What it looks like in practice is, for example, Mondays are clinical days. So maybe you do intakes and feedback on that day where you’re doing client-facing interactive appointments, intakes, and feedbacks. I guess that could apply to testing, but I’m going to keep testing on a different day, so, let’s just say you’re doing intakes and feedback and maybe collateral interviews on one day.

You do your testing and scoring on specific days only. I would probably keep that as the only activity on those days. So maybe you have two days during the week where you’re only testing and scoring, so you’re not switching back and forth on that day. And then you have a day or two where you reserve a few 2 to 3-hour blocks for report writing on the other days.

[00:07:00] That’s the essential concept with day theming is it you just try to keep consistent activities on each day so that you’re not switching back and forth and disrupting your attention and your focus.

Another principle you might think about is to schedule an extra hour after your intake to write or edit the history. This may sound a little contradictory to what I just said because we’re mixing interviewing time with writing time, but this is an exception that I found is super helpful because writing the history or editing the history if you’re using some kind of software that “writes” your history for you, scheduling that extra hour after your intake finishes, it just makes it go so much faster, whether you’re writing or editing, it goes so much faster when you’re coming fresh off of that interview or you’ve just reviewed the [00:08:00] paperwork or whatever it may be. You have that information top of mind, and you get it out of the way.

So this is one of those cases where you put in the time early to save the time later. So when you go to write the report, it’s not writing the whole report, it’s just synthesizing the data and writing the conceptualization and so forth. So there’s a psychological component too. It’s not just getting the history done for the sake of getting it done. It’s helping your future self to not feel as overwhelmed because you won’t have as much report to write when it comes to writing the report. So scheduling an extra hour after your intake to write or edit the history and just flow straight into that. I also like to roll in distribution or sending of electronic questionnaires into that hour as well. So again, just knocking out some tasks that will pay dividends down the road.

And then the fourth [00:09:00] principle is that all these things that I’m talking about, you actually put the time on your schedule and you write it in. Don’t just leave open blocks without a label. There’s good research on how actually writing things in your schedule increases the likelihood that you’ll do it. And this is one of those times. So instead of just having a big wide open day that you in your mind have reserved for writing reports, go in there and actually block off two of three-hour chunks on your calendar and say writing reports. And then, like I said, it will increase the likelihood that you will actually do it. So when you look at your calendar, something in your brain says, okay, this is what I’m scheduled to do. It’s not, oh, hey look, I have all this open time and I can do any number of things besides the thing that I actually intend to do.

So those are just four quick, simple principles [00:10:00] for scheduling and time management that can help increase the efficiency of your evaluations.

Let’s transition over to software.

Software is a broad topic, obviously. We could go really deep on software, but I’m not going to do that. I have several podcasts on different types of software, so this is meant to be just a general discussion about any software-related thing that might help here.

So the first one is maybe a no-brainer, but my experience has told me that it actually is not a no-brainer. The principle here is to have a report template.

Let’s take a break to hear from our featured partner.

When you’re assessing memory in children and adolescents, remember these three assessment tools from PAR; the ChAMP, the MEMRY, and the MVP. These measures were developed specifically for use with children, adolescents, and young adults. Used together, the three [00:11:00] instruments, which are co-normed, provide you with comprehensive information about memory and performance validity. Learn more at parinc.com\memry.

All right, let’s get back to the podcast.

So that seemed very basic, but I know some of y’all out there are starting from scratch or doing a find-and-replace on old reports to write your new reports. What I mean by this is to have an actual report template, okay? Don’t just copy and paste from existing reports that you have.

Now, this takes a little bit of time, so I would take 1 to 2 hours and just build a good report template that you can type into where you’re not having to do a bunch of editing and finding and replacing, and that sort of thing. Have a good report template, and then here’s the trick, save it to your desktop so that you can access it quickly.

Once you build your report template, you save it to your desktop, you can access it fast. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just include your key sections, and format your table so you can just plug your scores in however you like to do that. If you do want to upgrade it a little bit, you can add form fields, for example, in a Word document and things like that. But if you’re intrigued by this concept, I’m guessing form fields are going to be beyond the scope of action here at first. So just build a template. Just build a basic template that you can open and edit and write your new reports with and make sure it’s easily accessible so you don’t have to search all over the place for it.

The second idea here is to have a recommendations bank. Again, this is one of those things that seems like a no-brainer, but I know [00:13:00] that folks out there do not have a recommendations bank. People are copying and pasting from old reports, and that takes time and energy and wastes a lot of both.

The way that I do it is I have a folder called recommendations with subfolders for each diagnosis or concern, and then separate documents within each of those subfolders for each age group, like preschool, elementary, adolescent, or adult. You can use Microsoft Word’s insert file function to throw these recommendation files into your reports very quickly. If you don’t know what that is, you can either Google it or you can watch a video that I made a few years ago showing how to do this. I’ll include that in the show notes for you to check out.

The second component of a recommendations bank is to continually evolve it. And this takes some discipline. This is [00:14:00] where people get stuck because you will be writing your reports,  think of a one-off recommendation to add, and then it doesn’t make it to the main recommendation bank. So what I like to do is just keep a running document. I use Google Docs. You can do it wherever. Keep a running document throughout the week or month of new recommendations, and then at the end of the week or month, you can take 30 to 60 minutes to just move each of those new recommendations into the appropriate existing recommendations documents, and then you keep your recommendations constantly updated.

Now, as we know, folks do not follow many of our recommendations. This is an interesting dilemma to be trying to solve. I mean, theoretically, we should be cutting our recommendations down and only offering the top two to three primary recommendations for people to [00:15:00] follow. I know that that idea is important and we need to limit our information and I think that it’s still helpful to have a solid recommendations bank that you can pull from, if for nothing else, then to give yourself the resources and be able to look through those and understand and know how to access different things that might be helpful for specific clients even if you don’t throw all those recommendations into the report.

All right. The third idea under software is to use TextExpander or something similar. I’ve talked a lot about TextExpander on the podcast and will not belabor at that point, but TextExpander is a piece of software that allows you to type in shortcuts that then expand into longer phrases or paragraphs or strings of words.

For example, one of the [00:16:00] main ways that I use text expander in my reports is to create shortcuts for all of the diagnoses and their ICD10 and DSM5 codes. For example, I might type in ADHD combined and it automatically expands into a phrase that has the ICD10 and DSM5 codes and the description. That’s just one example, but you can use text expander to shortcut explanations of tests if you’re still doing that in your report. Diagnostic explanations. You can do phrases that you use a lot that might take a while to type out like your name or within normal limits or any number of other phrases that you use repetitively in your reports. So, check out TextExpander or something similar. There’s another option called PhraseExpander that is similar that you might look at as well, but I love [00:17:00] TextExpander.

Okay. The fourth principle is to consider task management software.

So what is task management software in the context of report writing?

Well, it is something that will help you keep track of all the different steps of an evaluation. Like I said, this is a heavy executive functioning load for a lot of us, so task management software just helps us know who is where in the evaluation process, and did we forget to send out questionnaires? Do we need that release of info? Has this person done feedback yet? Have I written that report?

You can use something like an Excel sheet. That’s very easy. It’s also relatively unsophisticated, but it works. So you can have an Excel sheet with a bunch of columns for each stage in the evaluation process and little check boxes for when you finish each of those stages or steps.

If you want to take a step up, you could [00:18:00] look at task management software. I’m a big fan of DocHealth. DocHealth is a HIPAA-compliant task management software that I partnered with. They have some built-in evaluation workflows that I helped develop. I do have an affiliate relationship with DocHealth, so full disclosure there, but I think they’re doing really good work and their software is pretty sophisticated and has a great user interface. So Doc Health is an example.

You could use something like Asana or Trello. Those are not HIPAA compliant, so you have to work around that, which can get a little clunky. If you have intakeQ, you can potentially take advantage of some of the automations that intakeQ allows for, task assignment, and things like that. Whatever you choose, seriously consider task management [00:19:00] software unless you’re an executive functioning unicorn who can hold all of that information in your mind without any help.

The last thing that I’m going to throw out there is a very minor thing, but we’re looking to save any amount of time that we can, and this last idea is to have a referral list on your website or some other document that you can easily send to clients after you finish the evaluation if you don’t put referrals directly in your report, which we don’t. We like to continually update our referral list and we like to reserve the flexibility to give people different referrals over time. And we’d rather not put referrals in the report because then that lives forever even though our opinions might change of our referral sources.

So why is this important? Well, it saves you the time and energy of searching for referral sources phone numbers, websites, et cetera, every time you want to make that [00:20:00] referral. So you can just create a referral sources document and send that to folks and maybe pick out a couple and tell them to focus on specific referrals that you think would be helpful, but so much easier than searching through and finding people’s contact information.

So again, these are just a few tools and tips for streamlining your evaluation process. I think if you put all of these together, it can make a big difference in your sanity while you work through your evaluations. And again, you have to give yourself some compassion in this process. This is a high-demand activity that is not for the faint of heart.

Don’t get beat down by anything you hear, those of you, your colleagues who either have stellar executive functioning, some kind of work situation where brief reports are okay, or other factors that lead to what seems like above average [00:21:00] management of the eval process. It’s totally doable to manage our evaluations, but for most of us, it does take some work and some support and some of these systems that I’ve talked about today. So, lean in a little bit, try to implement some of these things, and I hope that it leads to a little more efficiency and sanity in your practice.

All right, y’all, thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and in your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes, so make sure to check those out. If you like what you hear on the podcast, I would be so grateful if you left a review on iTunes or Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcast.

And if you’re a practice owner or aspiring practice owner, I’d invite you to check out The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. I [00:22:00] have mastermind groups at every stage of practice development, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. We have homework, we have accountability, we have support, and we have resources. These groups are amazing. We do a lot of work and a lot of connecting. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check out the details at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. You can sign up for a pre-group phone call and we will chat and figure out if a group could be a good fit for you. Thanks so much.

The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the [00:23:00] website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.

Click here to listen instead!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.