With recent figures estimating that 61% of all adults use a smartphone, and as smartphone usage continues to increase and technology evolves, we can increasingly expect more and more people to turn to convenient apps and software to make their lives easier.[1] Therapists and their patients are no exception.

Navigating the fast-evolving world of blended care can sometimes seem overwhelming. For patients, finding the right therapist, booking appointments, and understanding insurance claims is often a frustrating exercise. For therapists, repetition and tedious administrative tasks often keep them from doing what they love best – helping others overcome mental health symptoms and emotional pain.

Fortunately, technological advances are making it easier for providers to offer mental healthcare to those who need it. Choosing the right therapy apps for your clinical practice will make obtaining healthcare more accessible for your patients, and everyday office tasks far more streamlined. Best of all? Deploying therapy apps for your practice doesn’t have to break the bank.

What Are Therapist Apps?

Mobile mental health applications, or apps, have a lot to offer the modern-day therapists. Apps can help therapists streamline and automate repetitive, but crucial office tasks, such as scheduling and filing and coding documents. For patients, there are therapist apps that make it easier for them to obtain care remotely. No matter what tasks a therapist would like to automate or streamline, there is probably an app for it.

Later in the article, we’ll cover a list of some of the most popular apps for therapists and what they can do for both organizations and patients.

Is There An App For That?

So, what types of tasks do some of the most popular virtual care apps handle?

  • Scheduling
  • Visitor Management
  • Notes and Documentation
  • Billing and Coding
  • Telehealth

It’s possible for organizations to use standalone apps that handle one specific task. Organizations with greater automation or telehealth needs can benefit from using more robust systems that include entire EHR or EMR suites.

A small, solo practice may only need a standalone therapy application, while larger organizations may need to invest in whole therapy application systems. Also, many therapy apps are specialty-specific. Providers can find therapy apps that are designed for family and group counseling, behavioral health, telepsychology, online coaching, and even telepsychiatry.

How Do Patients Benefit from Therapy Apps?

There is a huge need for mental healthcare services, but they are not always accessible to many patients. Patients who live in remote areas, don’t have access to a vehicle, or have a mental or physical condition that limits their ability to leave the house can significantly benefit from using teletherapy apps.[2]

There is a huge need for mental healthcare services, but they are not always accessible to many patients.

Less Stressful Visits

For many patients, leaving home and attending a therapy session can be overwhelming. Patients with severe anxiety or depression may find it easier to start and comply with treatment plans if their therapist offers apps for remote sessions, called teletherapy.[3]

These apps also make it easy for therapists to view the patient’s documents and progress notes while in a video conference session. For therapists who conduct group or family counseling, there are apps designed for group video conferences too.

Lower Dropout Rates

Patients are more likely to keep up with their therapy sessions if making appointments and communicating with their therapist or staff is comfortable and private.[4] Many therapy apps offer visitor management features.

With certain apps for therapists, patients can discreetly sign in to their session via a mobile or a tablet, so no one else in the waiting room will see or hear their confidential information.

Less Waiting

Patients who are kept needlessly waiting in the lobby can find attending therapy sessions a nerve-wracking experience. With visitor management therapy apps, therapists can be alerted when patients arrive and sign in via their devices. Notifications are sent straight to the therapist’s phone, which can cut down on wait times.

Better Scheduling

Also, therapists and patients are notified when scheduling mishaps occur. There are numerous mobile therapy apps on the market today that deal strictly with scheduling. These apps can make it easy for patients to find available appointment times, schedule appointments, and set up recurring appointments.

They may also be able to send automated reminders to the patient’s phone or email, which can reduce incidences of forgotten and missed appointments and protect the organization’s cash flow. Regardless, patients, individual practitioners, and entire organizations can benefit from using different therapy apps.

Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise Therapy Apps

When choosing the right vendor for a therapy app, one of the most important decisions is choosing to deploy a cloud-based system or an on-premise system. Cloud-based systems have become incredibly popular, and nearly all therapy app vendors offer some form of cloud-based applications.

As well as being priced differently on the whole, both systems have different technology, pros, and cons.

Consider these basic differences[5]:

  • Cloud-based systems are run on an external, remote server and accessed through the internet
  • On-premise systems are installed locally and run on the organization’s servers
  • Cloud software is typically priced in tiers and paid as a monthly or annual subscription
  • On-premise systems are priced as a one-time license fee, with recurring fees for support

Since an on-premise system typically requires a larger upfront cost than cloud-based apps, it’s considered a capital expenditure.[6] For cloud-based therapy apps, these systems are operating expenses since deploying them will add to the organization’s overhead.

For smaller organizations and new practitioners, cloud-based systems have lower entry costs and may be easier to obtain and run. Since these apps run on a remote server, individual practices don’t have to update or maintain the system – instead, this is done by vendors.

Cloud-Based Practice Management Systems: Pros and Cons

Both cloud-based and on-premise practice management solutions have their own set of pros and cons.

Let’s take a look at the table below for a little more insight into what the research says.[7]

AdvantagesDisadvantages
  • Convenient Client and Therapist Access. Cloud-based systems for therapy apps typically include easy mobile accessibility; while these come with even more security concerns, they are still incredibly convenient for providers and patients alike.[8]
  • Cost Benefits. Cloud services are becoming increasingly cheaper when used at scale, thanks to advances in modern technology and its growing role as an essential in today’s larger organizations. Practitioners expecting to scale up in size can benefit from this to streamline their revenue models and cut costs.[9]
  • Lower Maintenance. Thanks to customer care and technical support on the vendor’s side, many practitioners find cloud-based services much easier to use than maintaining their own on-premises software. It’s thus possible for professionals to save time and focus on delivering higher-quality care, rather than firefighting technical issues.[9]
  • Security Issues – Health providers depend on safe storage of customer data, such as medical records and session notes. Many platforms find it hard to meet auditability requirements and comply with legislations like the Health and Human Services Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).[10][11]
  • Not 100% Scalable – Despite being able to offer more storage capacity than most on-premise providers, cloud-based platforms still aren’t unlimited. For very large practices, therefore, cloud-based therapy solutions aren’t necessarily a cure-all – they do have their limits.[12]
  • Less Freely Customizable. Another issue with mobile accessibility is that organizations have less ability to customize the apps. Organizations with highly specialized needs will not have the flexibility to tailor the system if it is cloud-based. But smaller companies with fewer specialized needs can usually find all that they need with a cloud-based therapy app.

Privacy and Security Questions

Most pressingly with cloud-based systems, and as the table shows, many sensitive documents will be created, shared, reviewed, and stored off-site. Understandably, providers who are new to the concept of using therapy apps may be wary of security issues with a cloud-based system.[12][13]

As a therapist or institution, it’s important to choose a provider who can ensure secure data storage. Alternatively or in addition to this, it’s worth considering an additional third-party vendor security audit, which is especially helpful if the vendor is new to the market or less well-known.[14]

On-Premise Practice Management Systems: Pros and Cons

If the sound of off-site data storage doesn’t appeal to you as a practitioner, it might be worth considering the benefits and drawbacks of on-premise therapy software solutions.

Advantages

Disadvantages

  • Greater Control. With on-site systems, practices and institutions have far more control over the applications themselves, for greater peace of mind around security. Potentially, it also offers the flexibility of being able to customize interfaces under their own brands to create more personalized, engaging experiences for clients.[15]
  • Responsibility for Security. With greater control, practices that have on-premise systems also have more responsibility. Providers who use on-premise apps need to take accountability for securing sensitive data and ensuring it complies with the necessary legal requirements, such as HIPAA-compliant software. Confidential information on patients and the organization is, unfortunately, a frequent target for hackers.[16]
  • Technologically Demanding. On-premise systems often require a third-party to deploy mobile accessibility features. While this is not an insurmountable problem, it does present an additional major pain-point for smaller and less tech-savvy organizations.
  • High Upfront Cost. Most on-premise systems will have the same features as a cloud-based therapy app. But, an on-premise system is much easier to customize to the organization’s needs as it grows and evolves.

In A Nutshell

To round it all up, choosing the right type of therapy app means considering the following factors:

  • The size of your organization, in terms of how many people will be accessing the system
  • The importance of mobile-accessibility to your practice
  • Your budget
  • If you as a practitioner or organization require customization of the apps

There are other things to consider when choosing the right apps for occupational therapists and mental healthcare providers. Analyzing the needs and desires of staff and of the organization’s client base is crucial for finding the right therapy apps.

What To Consider When Choosing Therapy Apps

Staff members are on the frontlines of both administrative tasks, scheduling, and patient care. Organizations must listen to their staff members when it comes to choosing a new therapy app. Otherwise, providers can make the mistake of picking an application that includes features that the staff will never use or find it challenging to navigate.[17] If that happens, the organization will have wasted money investing in something that won’t benefit the organization.

Also, providers should consider how a therapy app could benefit their patients.[18] Offering mobile accessibility might make it easier for their patients to comply with treatment plans. Also, visitor management capabilities may put patients at ease, helping organizations retain their clients or find new ones.

When searching for a new therapy app, practices should consider their organization’s, staff members, and patient’s unique needs and how an app can meet these requirements.

4 Most Popular Therapy Apps

Ready to trial or implement a new app into your practice? Many platforms offer free trials so you can test-drive their services; alternatively, there are a lot of well-reviewed, popular and highly-recommended apps out there.

Here are just a few that you can browse based on what your organization requires.

Therapy App

Details

DMS-5 CriteriaThe American Psychiatric Association has launched this official mobile therapy app, available for both iOS and Android phones. The app has a one-time setup fee and offers up-to-date access to ICD-9-CM and ICD-10-CM codes.

The app also gives users search and bookmarking capabilities, as well as video commentary. This handy DSM-5 reference can make assessments much easier and save the therapist’s time when searching for the correct ICD codes. Users aren’t required to register with the vendor for access.

NameDSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria
Price$69.99
Good ForDiagnosis
Websitehttps://apps.apple.com/ug/app/dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria/id662938847

Therapy App

Details

TheraNest TheraNest is a therapy notes app for mental health professionals that offers mobile access and convenient capabilities. TheraNest comes with a complete catalog of diagnostic codes that are simple to pre-select. Providers can also view and make appointments straight from their mobile device while on the app.

It’s also possible for users to accept both patient and staff signatures within the secure application. This app is available for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.

NameTheraNest
Price$39+ monthly
Good ForClient Interface, Practice Management, Secure Document Storage
Websitehttps://theranest.com/

Therapy App

Details

SimplePracticeSimplePractice is a very user-friendly mobile app for mental health providers and therapists. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.

Providers can easily automate and streamline several tasks, including appointment settings. It’s also possible for users to make and send invoices and process payments in the app.

NameSimplePractice
Price$39+ monthly
Good ForVideo Therapy, Practice Management, Billing, Mobile Therapy
Websitehttps://www.simplepractice.com/

Therapy App

Details

AdvancedMDCompared to the other apps we’ve looked at so far, AdvancedMD’s capabilities and functions are more tailored for larger organizations. AdvancedMD is a comprehensive software suite for therapists and other mental health practices.

The program features EHR, patient health engagement, telemedicine, rooming, business intelligence reporting, and practice management, among other capabilities, within a cloud-based app. The app also allows providers to track claims status and track payments. Mobile users can access the app from iOS devices. AdvancedMD also offers users browser-agnostic capabilities for both Mac and Windows systems.

NameAdvancedMD
PriceOn Request
Good ForEHR, EMR, Billing, Practice Management
Websitehttps://www.advancedmd.com/

Final Thoughts

Not taking advantage of technology and using therapist apps is wasting massive potential. In today’s digital and complex world, providers must utilize technology to keep their businesses running smoothly and enhance patient care. Therapy apps and apps for occupational therapists can make administrative tasks less tedious and cumbersome. Automation and scheduling software also reduce incidences of no-shows and cancellations.

With therapy apps, providers can protect their cash flow while making it easier to treat patients. On the customer service side of things, therapy apps make setting appointments, contacting therapists, and attending sessions more efficient and comfortable for clients.

Have you started using therapy apps for your practice? Which ones have you found the most beneficial, and would you recommend it to others? Please let us know how therapy apps are working for you in the comments.

References

  1. ^ Walker, M. (2019). Americans favor mobile devices over desktops and laptops for getting news. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/11/19/americans-favor-mobile-devices-over-desktops-and-laptops-for-getting-news/
  2. ^ Lederman, R., Wadley, G., Gleeson, J., Bendall, S., & Álvarez-Jiménez, M. (2014). Moderated online social therapy: Designing and evaluating technology for mental health. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 21(1), 1.
  3. ^ Pruitt, L. D., Luxton, D. D., & Shore, P. (2014). Additional clinical benefits of home-based telemental health treatments. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(5), 340.
  4. ^ Vogel, D. L., & Wester, S. R. (2003). To seek help or not to seek help: The risks of self-disclosure. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50(3), 351.
  5. ^ Wang, L., & Alexander, C. A. (2013). Medical applications and healthcare based on cloud computing. International Journal of Cloud Computing and Services Science, 2(4), 217.
  6. ^ Boillat, T., & Legner, C. (2013). From on-premise software to cloud services: the impact of cloud computing on enterprise software vendors' business models. Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, 8(3), 39.
  7. ^ AbuKhousa, E., Mohamed, N., & Al-Jaroodi, J. (2012). e-Health cloud: opportunities and challenges. Future Internet, 4(3), 621.
  8. ^ McHaney, R.W., Reychev, I., McHaney, M.E., & Moshonov, R. (2020). Impacts of Information Technology on Patient Care and Empowerment. Pennsylvania: IGI Global.
  9. ^ Adibi, S., Wickramasinghe, N., & Chan, C. (2013). CCmH The cloud computing paradigm for mobile health (mHealth). The International Journal of Soft Computing and Software Engineering, 3(3), 403.
  10. ^ United States. (2004). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration.
  11. ^ Rodrigues, J. J., de la Torre, I., Fernández, G., & López-Coronado, M. (2013). Analysis of the security and privacy requirements of cloud-based electronic health records systems. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(8), e186.
  12. ^ Hofmann, P. (2010). The Limits of Public Clouds for Business Applications--An overly simplistic reliance on the utility model risks blinding us to the real opportunities and challenges of cloud computing. In Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on E-Business Intelligence (ICEBI2010). Atlantis Press.
  13. ^ Gagnon, M. P., Ngangue, P., Payne-Gagnon, J., & Desmartis, M. (2016). m-Health adoption by healthcare professionals: A systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 23(1), 212.
  14. ^ ITPAC Consulting. (2020). Third Party HIPAA Compliance Checklist. Retrieved from https://itpacconsulting.com/third-party-hipaa-compliance-checklist/
  15. ^ Gonzalez, N., Miers, C., Redigolo, F., Simplicio, M., Carvalho, T., Näslund, M., & Pourzandi, M. (2012). A quantitative analysis of current security concerns and solutions for cloud computing. Journal of Cloud Computing: Advances, Systems and Applications, 1(1), 11.
  16. ^ Alkhaldi, B., Sahama, T. R., Huxley, C., & Gajanayake, R. (2014). Barriers to implementing eHealth: a multi-dimensional perspective. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics - e-Health-For Continuity of Care, 205, 875.
  17. ^ Kaipainen, K., Välkkynen, P., & Kilkku, N. (2017). Applicability of acceptance and commitment therapy-based mobile app in depression nursing. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 7(2), 242.
  18. ^ Price, M., Yuen, E. K., Goetter, E. M., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., Acierno, R., & Ruggiero, K. J. (2014). mHealth: a mechanism to deliver more accessible, more effective mental health care. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 21(5), 427.

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