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Massage therapy in the digital age

mtblog-reynolds.jpgAs we are all aware, the digital age is upon us. We nag our kids about getting enough fresh air and exercise and put restrictions on their screen time. The reality is we’re all guilty of sitting hunched over computers and/or desks for hours a day. Even as manual therapists, massage therapy has taken on a huge shift regarding technology. Booking appointments online or with our smart phones and communicating with clients over email instead of telephone, have become second nature to us.


October 1, 2013
By Patricia Reynolds

Topics

Truthfully, it allows us to do a lot more business in a shorter amount
of time. Creating efficiency in our practices has become a bigger
priority to many of us. My medical doctor, dermatologist and
chiropractor, have all gone digital. Just west of me, Humber River is
building the first completely digital hospital.

As in every other area of health-care, we as massage therapists must
keep up, constantly learning and growing as individuals in order to
provide the best care possible to our patients. Technology is no
different. So in my efforts to ‘keep up,’ I began researching some of
the software systems available to massage therapists now. It began as a
slow arduous process, but as I learned more, I could see where certain
processes I was using in my practice could be much more efficient and
others that didn’t even exist because they would just be impossible for
one person to handle. I began to really understand how much time I was
losing by not being efficient and how I could grow my business more
quickly if I had the right information at my fingertips about my clients
and their needs. There are more than three software products available
in the market today, but these were the ones most worth looking at in
terms of our massage therapy practice needs that are available in
Canada.

Choice #1
Product/Company: SOAP Vault
Cost: $19.99/month

Essential basics: SOAP Vault has all the essentials: database, scheduling, charting and billing

What
makes it different:
Its database can be built by emailing the health
history form to your clients to have them fill it in. When they click
SAVE the form comes back to your database and saves it there. This
feature is amazing because it allows you to get updates on all your
existing clients when you begin using the software and allows you to
view the health history of new clients before they arrive — a bonus if
you like a little mental prep time for your treatment planning, as I do.
The database can also be manually filled-in by you or an assistant, if
need be.

Special features:
  My favourite feature of the SOAP
Vault software is the charting bodies. SOAP Vault features full anterior
and posterior views of the body with all muscles exposed for detailed
charting of the areas and techniques used for each treatment. You simply
click on the area and a box will appear. In the box, you write the
technique and as you begin spelling the name of it, the ‘auto complete’
feature drops a menu of words most commonly used. Most techniques and
descriptive words are already there to be chosen from the menu. When you
click SAVE, the tag is saved on the body to be viewed at any time. Once
the treatment form has been saved it cannot be edited. It also allows
you to copy treatments if the session was the same as the last one.

The
downside:
While SOAP Vault is my first choice here and the clear top
runner, in my opinion, specifically for massage therapists or body
workers, there is room for improvement. The software has yet to provide
lateral bodies for the left and right views. The mobile app version is
also not available yet. I would also like to see more in-depth
analytical marketing reports so we, as therapists, can understand our
clients and their needs at a deeper level.

The upside: SOAP
Vault’s philosophy is to think of the massage therapist first and build
out, so the software developers are very open to feedback and in fact
invite it for constant upgrade and improvement. The company’s mobile app
is currently in beta testing and is due to be available in October of
this year. SOAP Vault’s next major project is creating and making
available the lateral left and right views of the body for charting
purposes, with the goal to have complete, comprehensive note creation
within 60 to 90 seconds. That would be amazing. They are promising major
updates in the coming year. We’ll be looking forward to it.

Choice #2
Product/Company: Mind Body Online
Cost: $50/month, single user; $75/month, 2+ users

Basic essentials: Mind Body has database, scheduling and billing features, but no charting templates or forms

What
makes it different:
Mind Body offers many great features including
online credit card processing and a personal website, but my favourite
feature is its extensive analytical marketing tools. You can run reports
on virtually anything about your business, you can find out who comes
most often, what type of treatments they get, how many referrals they’ve
made, the major demographic visiting your location, to name a few. It
also offers customer service options which include confirmation emails
to remind your clients of their appointment date and time. It runs
payroll, merchant processing, has an online scheduler that automatically
updates and you can even log in to it from Facebook.

Special
features:
What makes this software so accessible is the mobile app. You
can use it anywhere on a computer, phone or tablet (iOS and Android),
making hospital visits, geriatric visits, or any other mobile service
much easier to deal with. The business side of the software speaks to
the consumer side as well, so you’ll never have to worry about duplicate
information or recording what happened with payments into a separate
spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel, which the software is compatible with
and can be uploaded to the system.

The downside:
This software is
a match made in heaven for any massage therapist or body worker who is
conscious about customer service and takes an interest in understanding
their clientele. It just doesn’t have any charting capability, which for
us is a must-have if we’re going digital. I just don’t see the sense in
using two separate systems to run one business — and I’m also not
willing to pay for both.

The upside: For a multi-disciplined
clinic with several practitioners, this software is a gem. In that
scenario, each therapist could take care of his or her own manual
charting and use the system to run the business. The developers of this
software have also recently considered creating a charting side to the
software; however, I’ve no information as to whether or not that will
happen or when.

Choice #3

Product/Company: Clinic Source
Cost: $89/month

Basic
essentials:
Clinic Source has an offline scheduler, billing and a
database. Their charting section is an area where SOAP notes can be
recorded from dialogue between patient and therapist.

What makes
it different:
The difference with this software is that it does offer
both sides of the first two, some business features and some treatment
application features.

Special features: This product doesn’t offer anything the other two do not.

The
downside:
This software is under developed and overpriced. There are no
customer service features such as confirmation emails or follow-up, the
scheduler is offline unless you’re using 3G/4G on your smartphone and
there are no bodies to record on for charting, which is a must for my
clinic. It also makes it very complicated to add HST or do insurance
billing when the programming is available to make it very smooth and
simple.

The upside: Again, for another type of practice, such as
speech pathology, this software would be quite efficient. However, for
the average massage therapist or body worker, we require a few more
features that are just not available here.

Technology can really enhance
our business skills and growth if we embrace it and use it wisely. If we
continue to give relative feedback to developers, we’ll begin to see
products that really reflect our needs and allow us to provide the best
care possible while continuing to comply with all our obligations to the
College of Massage Therapists of Ontario.  

Choosing a software
program for your practice really boils down to individual preference. I
hope I’ve taken some of the foot work out for you and that I’ve provided
useful information in regards to software currently available for
massage therapists. Please feel free to contact me with any further
questions or feedback. I’d love to hear from you.

Patricia
Reynolds is a sole practitioner with a home studio in the west end of
Toronto. She has provided massage therapy for over 16 years, and in
recent years has added yoga and structural integration to her
repertoire. She continues to take an interest in the growth and ethics
of the industry. Health-care integration as her ultimate goal — to see
massage therapy be considered an essential part of a health-care team in
and out of medical practices of any origin.

(Editor’s Note: The above review was an independent evaluation of the
author and the opinions expressed are exclusively that of the author’s
alone. The information provided is strictly for information purposes only.
Massage Therapy Canada is not affiliated with nor does it endorse any of
the products mentioned in this article.)


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