“When we started the Ontario College of Health and Technology student Massage Therapy Clinic five years ago,” says Mary Ellen Logan, director of academics at the college, “we had no idea how quickly patient charts would accumulate. One small filing cabinet quickly became two huge credenzas taking up a large amount of space. Although annually we would shred any files of patients that had not returned, we seemed to be overwhelmed with folders. Access to the patient files was another challenge because we have between 10 and 18 student therapists needing the patient information at the same time for every appointment.”
The college wanted to find a more practical, as well as environmentally friendly, solution to this mounting problem. To this end, it had previously sought out software for charting but every option seemed to be the wrong solution. Some programs were American, and didn’t conform to provincial governing body guidelines; others were to be loaded onto computers by disks that clinic organizers worried would become corrupt and crash. As well, with up to 50 therapists, and a supervisor needing access to the files for evaluation, the clinic foresaw many challenges during the shift to going green that most clinics would not have to worry about and wondered, for a while, if, in fact, it was the wisest route to pursue.
“Then we found SOAP Vault, the secure web-based charting program,” says Logan. “The students and the clinic supervisor can all just log onto the SOAP Vault website and have access to the patient files in order to add their treatment notes.”
SOAP Vault offers two portals, an administrative one and a therapist area. The administrative level gives full access to all patient information to only a select few, while the therapists can see all of the previous notes relating to treatments and the patient’s medical history, but not personal contact information.
“After trying SOAPVault on a cohort of patients, and meeting with great success, we decided to go completely green and eliminate all of the paper charts.” notes Logan. “We purchased 12 inexpensive tablet notebooks that all had wireless capability. One half hour before clinic begins, the students are given a schedule for the evening and a notebook computer, so they can log onto the website and review the patients they have coming in. When new patients arrive, we have them fill out a single-page patient information sheet, printed off the initial patient intake form on SOAP Vault, and sign a consent form. The clinic receptionist enters the information into her computer immediately so that the students have access to it before the appointment begins. That single page is then shredded and the signed consent form is filed alphabetically into a binder. Our eight-drawer credenzas have now been reduced to that single binder!”
Logan states that feedback from the students has been wonderful.
“That’s the best part of our story,” she says. “It’s hard to please all the people all the time, but we have done just that. The students love the clarity of the program, and the supervisors are thrilled that everything documented is legible and professional. It makes the review of the student files faster and more efficient.”
“My advice to clinics wanting to make a green change like we did is ‘go for it’! The web-based option works in our very complicated environment, so it will certainly work for a smaller practice situation with fewer therapists involved!”